Quote: "By the time claimants reach the hearing level, or the second appeal, about 90 percent of people applying have a representative helping them with their case."
The Social Security Disability Insurance application process is experiencing a huge crunch right now, and it's expected to last for the next couple of years. This will make it even more important for people to find out if they are likely to be eligible before they apply and for those with severe disabilities to get representation from the beginning, according to Allsup.
Social Security Disability Backlog Worsens, So Make Sure You Qualify Before You Apply
Contact an SSDI representation company to learn if you could be eligible for benefits before you apply; average wait times for initial applications will jump by 20 percent this year
The Social Security Disability Insurance application process is experiencing a huge crunch right now, and it's expected to last for the next couple of years. This will make it even more important for people to find out if they are likely to be eligible before they apply and for those with severe disabilities to get representation from the beginning, according to Allsup, which represents tens of thousands of people in the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application and hearing process each year.
The Social Security Administration recently reported that the average time to process initial disability claims will increase by 20 percent. The length of time is expected to grow from 129 days in FY 2009 to 156 days in FY 2010.
"It's amazing the difference one year can make," said Jim Allsup, founder and CEO of Allsup, which provides SSDI and Medicare services to people with permanent disabilities who can no longer work. "The current economy and the aging baby boomers are driving the growth in disability applications. The backlog is now hitting the earliest level of the process - the initial application."
SSA projections help illustrate the challenge for the federal agency. Last year, the SSA forecast 493,000 initial applications pending in the disability process for fiscal year 2009. Now, more than half way through FY 2009, the agency expects the level of pending initial disability claims to reach 833,000 - nearly double the original forecast.
"By fiscal year 2010, the SSA expects the number of claims pending just at the application level will reach nearly 1 million people," said Mr. Allsup. "These delays are such a hardship, especially when the application process can be clogged with those who do not qualify for benefits. It's never been more important for people to get help applying for SSDI by finding out if they are likely to qualify for SSDI benefits based on their work history, their ability to work and on the severity of their disability. Then it's all about getting those who deserve benefits through the SSDI process as quickly as possible, a huge challenge as it is."
These figures of pending cases at the initial application are in addition to the estimated 755,000 pending claims in fiscal year 2009 at the hearing level, where SSDI decisions are reviewed by administrative law judges and the wait can last two to four years.
SSDI is a federally mandated insurance program overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that operates separately from the retirement and SSI programs. SSDI provides monthly benefits to individuals who are under full retirement age (age 65 or older) and 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.
Break Through The Backlog With Representation
Choosing representation at the beginning of the process is one of the simpler decisions someone can make to improve their chances of receiving their SSDI benefits more quickly and with less hassle. Unfortunately, most other SSDI representatives turn away those who ask for help at the application level.
"However, Allsup's experts have proven there is an advantage to having knowledgeable assistance and guidance from the very beginning," said Mr. Allsup. "On average 54 percent of those who hire Allsup to apply receive their awards at the initial application, compared with 35 percent for the national average."
In addition, people with disabilities can find out if they are eligible and likely to qualify for SSDI benefits before they've even begun the application process.
"The important thing to realize is that you can get help before you send in the first forms," said Mr. Allsup. "Our professionals have helped thousands of people to better understand SSDI benefits and how individuals qualify for these benefits."
The SSA follows a five-step sequential process to evaluate applications for disability benefits. The federal agency makes decisions based on medical documentation, work history, age and other factors.
"People have many questions about the SSDI process," explained Mr. Allsup. "That's one of the reasons we've worked hard to provide as much information as possible through Allsup.com and through our Disability Evaluation Center. You can get an idea of just how likely you are to get your SSDI benefits by contacting our representatives."
By the time claimants reach the hearing level, or the second appeal, about 90 percent of people applying have a representative helping them with their case. "If you make that decision early, you may be able to avoid the hearing process altogether," said Mr. Allsup. "There is a lot that a representative can do to help you through the SSDI process and get you to the other side with less stress."
If you're not certain you are eligible for SSDI based on your work history, contact the Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 279-4357.
For more information about choosing a representative and your options, visit Choosing Disability Representation online.
Social Security Administration, Justification of Estimates for Appropriations Committee, May 2009. www.ssa.gov/budget
Social Security Administration, FY 2010 Budget Overview, May 2009. www.ssa.gov/budget
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