Allsup top 10 tips to help people with disabilities as applications for Social Security disability benefits soar to 2.8 million.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applications reached an unprecedented 2.8 million claims in 2009, signaling the continuing challenge for applicants. Allsup, the nation's leading Social Security disability representation company, is releasing 10 tips to help Americans with disabilities break through the backlog of more than 700,000 claims now waiting for a hearing before the Social Security Administration.
"Based on Allsup's extensive experience completing and getting awards for thousands of SSDI applicants, we've compiled this list of 10 tips to break through the disability backlog," said Mike Stein, assistant vice president of claims. "These are some of the key steps that individuals can take to speed up their process as much as possible, knowing that it can take two years or more to receive benefits."
The Social Security Administration now expects 340,000 more disability claims in fiscal year 2010 than anticipated one year ago. By the end of this year, the estimated pending SSDI backlog will be 964,000 for initial applications.
SSDI is a federally mandated insurance program overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that operates separately from the retirement and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. SSDI provides monthly benefits to individuals under full retirement age (65 or older) who can no longer work because of a disability (injury, illness or condition) that is expected to last for at least 12 months or is terminal. Individuals must have paid FICA taxes to be eligible. More details are provided in the SSDI Overview on Allsup.com.
Allsup's Top 10 Tips for Breaking Through the Disability Backlog
1. Determine eligibility. To be eligible for SSDI benefits, claimants must have been disabled before reaching full retirement age (65-67) and meet the Social Security Administration's definition of disabled, which generally means being unable to work due to a medically determinable mental or physical impairment expected to result in death or last for at least 12 months. Individuals also must have worked and paid into the program for five of the last 10 years. (Obtain a free evaluation to determine eligibility by visiting: https://www.allsup.com/about-ssdi/free-ssdi-evaluation.aspx)
2. File immediately. If an initial claim is denied, Allsup notes that the national average wait for an appeals hearing is 491 days. There is no time to lose.
3. Obtain doctor's agreement. Claimants need written medical confirmation of their qualifying conditions when they apply. According to Allsup, not having a doctor's support when filing could delay the process a month or more.
4. Get help. Filing for disability benefits is a complicated process akin to preparing a difficult income tax return. Allsup emphasizes that the earlier applicants seek help, the more support they can get to help put them back on the right track.
5. Prepare an accurate medical record. A comprehensive factual record is required to convince the government to provide benefits.
6. Establish your work history. Compile records of dates and tenure of previous employment. As noted above, individuals must have worked for five of the previous 10 years to qualify for benefits. A 15-year work history is needed.
7. Meet deadlines. If benefits are denied at any stage of the process, claimants have only 60 days to file an appeal. If the deadline is missed, the process starts over from the beginning. In addition, there is a risk of reducing the amount of retroactive benefits to which someone is entitled.
8. Reduce spending. The long wait for benefits means that people lose their savings, possessions and sometimes their homes. Eliminate unnecessary spending as quickly as possible and prepare for the long haul. And don't use credit cards. Allsup reminds applicants that high-interest debt will add to long-term problems. There may be other, more affordable options for handling expenses. More resources are available to you on the Personal Finance section of Allsup.com.
9. Maintain health insurance. There will be a temptation to cut spending on insurance, but Allsup notes that even after individuals begin receiving disability benefits there is a two-year waiting period for Medicare eligibility.
10. Don't give up. The Social Security Administration denies more than 60 percent of all initial applications, but two-thirds of the people who appeal eventually will receive their disability benefits. By the time applicants reach the hearing level of appeals, about 90 percent are receiving representation assistance.
To find out if you may be eligible to apply for SSDI benefits, contact the Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 279-4357 and ask for a free evaluation.
Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and workers' compensation services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs more than 600 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, go to www.Allsup.com