How do I know if I am eligible for SSDI benefits and answers to other Social Security Disability Insurance questions.
A growing number of people are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits this year and experiencing difficulties, according to Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security disability representation and Medicare services. As a result of more applications, the waiting line is getting longer for people with severe disabilities to receive the benefits to which they're entitled.
A recent report of initial applications at state Disability Determination Services across the country showed an increase of more than 200,000 so far in fiscal year 2009. Initial applications reached 1.9 million through May 2009, compared with 1.7 million in May 2008.
The Social Security Administration also has said 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.
"This growing number of applications makes it even more critical for people to understand what they're getting into when they apply for SSDI benefits," said David Bueltemann, supervisor of senior claimant representatives at Allsup. In his career, Bueltemann has helped more than 5,000 people with disabilities receive their entitled SSDI benefits.
"The Social Security disability application process can be lengthy, complex and confusing," said Bueltemann. "By contacting a representative like Allsup, someone can find out if they are eligible and likely to qualify for SSDI benefits before they even submit their application."
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.
Newcomers to the SSDI process often have questions about the process, the length of time involved and the option of choosing representation. Allsup provides answers to some of the more common questions:
There are several factors to consider. First, you must be insured. Generally, this means you have worked and paid into the program through payroll taxes (or FICA taxes) for five of the last 10 years. You also must have been disabled before you reach your full retirement age (65-67). In addition, you must meet Social Security's definition of disability. In general terms, you must be unable to work because of a verifiable mental or physical impairment expected to last 12 months or longer, or result in death.
If you are uncertain whether you are eligible for SSDI benefits and should apply, Allsup offers a free, no-obligation Social Security disability evaluation. Call the Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 279-4357.
A common mistake people make is waiting too long to apply for Social Security disability benefits. If you have a severe or permanent disability that will keep you from working for 12 months or longer, or is terminal, then you should apply for SSDI benefits.
There is no requirement to wait a certain time period before applying. The SSDI process can take government claims examiners several months just to review claimants' initial applications. In some cases, review of your SSDI application and appeals can take two or more years. "The Social Security disability application process takes time, so it's important that you begin sooner rather than later," said Bueltemann. "Keep in mind, a representative like Allsup can help you determine whether you are likely to qualify."
A representative like Allsup can help you find out before you apply if you are likely to qualify for SSDI benefits. In addition, you are more likely to get your SSDI benefits faster. Allsup is able to help more customers receive their SSDI awards with their initial applications (54 percent compared to 35 percent national average). You can avoid waiting in Social Security telephone and office lines. Your representative also assists with paper work, compiling medical documentation and work history. When it comes to the cost, note that Allsup does not charge any fees unless someone's SSDI claim is awarded, and that fee is set by the SSA.
In addition, Allsup provides representation through all stages of the application, denial and appeal process. "Many people are not aware that they can have representation for their application from the beginning," said Bueltemann. "Your application may be denied and appealed several times. By the time applicants reach the hearing level, 90 percent have a representative on their side. "
The Social Security Administration denies two-thirds of all initial applications. For thousands of people who have already attempted their SSDI application on their own, the denial is frustrating. But they still have the opportunity to get representation. If your SSDI application has reached the hearing level, an experienced Allsup representative will prepare you for and represent you at the hearing, no matter where you live. In addition, nearly 70 percent of Allsup customers whose cases reach the hearing level do not have to attend a hearing because Allsup requests an on-the-record decision and presents the judge with a well-developed claim file prior to a hearing.
These are just a few of the common questions people have about applying for SSDI benefits.
"Allsup professionals specialize in the SSDI process, and we have heard and answered hundreds of questions from our customers over the years," said Bueltemann. "We are driven to be the experts in this process, serving our customers and helping them to receive the benefits they deserve as smoothly and quickly as possible so they can concentrate on other aspects of their lives."
Find more information and answers to other frequently asked questions about Social Security disability on Allsup.com. To reach someone directly, you can contact the Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 279-4357.
Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and workers' compensation services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2009, Allsup employs more than 580 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, visit www.Allsup.com