Six Advantages of Representation When You First Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

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Social Security Office of the Inspector General’s report: Disability applicants could benefit with SSDI representation

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“Many qualified applicants could avoid a long wait by receiving assistance with their application at the beginning of the SSDI process.” - Mike J. Stein, assistant vice president of claims for Allsup

Individuals submitting initial applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) could benefit from the use of a third-party representative, according to a recent report by the federal government. The report helps dispel the long-held idea that the process of filing for and documenting a request for SSDI benefits is easy to do alone, even though 63 percent of all initial applicants are denied benefits, according to Allsup, a nationwide provider of SSDI representation services.

The Aug. 20, 2010, report from Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Social Security Administration (SSA) examined the four impairments most often denied at the initial application level, but later approved for benefits at the hearing level.1 These were: back disorders, osteoarthrosis and related disorders, diabetes mellitus, and disorders of muscle, ligament and fascia. The inspector general said:

“If claimants with the four impairments we analyzed had representatives earlier in the disability process, some of them may have received an allowance decision at the DDS level2, saving them time and SSA money. First, the claimants may not have had to go to the hearing level if they had representatives to assist them with completing SSA’s forms and providing the necessary evidence at the DDS level. This could have saved some claimants about 500 days in receiving an allowance decision.”

“Allsup’s own experience after 26 years of providing representation services to those with all types of disabilities seems to bear this out. Those who hire us at the application level have a higher award rate at that level than the national average,” said Mike J. Stein, assistant vice president of claims for Allsup.

“Many qualified applicants could avoid a long wait by receiving assistance with their application at the beginning of the SSDI process,” Stein said. “As discussed in the report, a representative could ensure that your application is well-prepared and well-documented, making it easier and faster for the government to determine if you’re eligible and unable to work due to a disability.”

The OIG, citing the Social Security Administration, also discusses the challenges of finding representation at the application level where financial incentives for representatives are lower. Although Allsup represents initial applicants, many representatives—often attorneys—do not accept SSDI cases until the appeals level. In addition, many applicants do not know help is available. The OIG cites Allsup’s 2009 survey of approximately 300 SSDI applicants who the company helped on appeal after they applied for benefits on their own.3 Fifty-one percent of the respondents said they were unaware they could retain a representative to assist with their initial filing for Social Security disability benefits.

Allsup explains six advantages of representation to those who are considering applying for SSDI benefits.

1.    Have a well-documented claim. SSDI representatives speed the review of your SSDI application by creating a thoroughly developed claim that is completed using the experience and knowledge of policies that SSA examiners follow. By having this assistance from the beginning, you can help ensure that the disability examiners have the information they need to make a well-informed decision on your claim earlier and possibly avoid the hearing altogether. This also saves you from the challenges of completing unfamiliar forms with the information and detail the government needs. As cited in the OIG report, Allsup’s claimant survey found that 78 percent of claimants experienced barriers to handling the disability process on their own. These barriers included reading or understanding (48 percent) and completing forms (61 percent).

2.    Receive your benefits faster and possibly at a lower cost. Typically, Allsup is able to help more initial SSDI applicants receive their benefits at the application level, when compared to the national average. The ability to receive Social Security disability benefits at the initial application level can save hundreds of days of waiting for a decision, as noted in the OIG report. Those who are awarded at the application level usually have a lower representation fee.

3.    Benefit from expertise with the SSDI process. As noted by the inspector general, SSDI representatives are skilled at noticing additional impairments that may have a bearing on your claim and can assist with further documenting your inability to work and qualification for SSDI benefits based on your disability.

4.    Avoid the stress and limit the health impact. Allsup’s customer survey found that applicants experience significant stress—75 percent reported feeling significant or extreme stress—which often is compounded by the financial difficulties people with disabilities encounter during their wait for benefits. In addition, 53 percent of respondents reported that their illness grew worse in the long wait for SSDI benefits.

5.    Ensure your claim is moving through the SSDI process. Expert representatives like Allsup ensure that your claim is receiving attention throughout the process, including making sure that an accurate date of disability is established for your claim, and that filing deadlines and medical records requests are met on time.

6.    Benefit from strong claims history to help with your appeal. Even with an experienced expert at your side, many disability applications are still denied. Allsup makes sure appeal deadlines are met, collects additional medical evidence, keeps you updated on the status of your claim, prepares an authoritative brief for the judge to review and appears on your behalf at the hearing. In a large percentage of cases, however, Allsup requests and receives a decision “on-the-record,” which means the judge is satisfied with the documentation and you do not have to appear in person at a hearing.

“For years, individuals with all types of disabilities have struggled through the disability application process on their own—when they least need the additional stress, suffering and pain,” Stein said. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”

If you have questions about SSDI, or would like a free evaluation to determine if you are likely to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, contact the Allsup Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 279-4357. An Allsup professional can help you determine if you may qualify for SSDI benefits.

1 - “Disability Impairments on Cases Most Frequently Denied by Disability Determination Services and Subsequently Allowed by Administrative Law Judges (A-07-09-19083),” online at http://www.ssa.gov.
2 – DDS refers to state Disability Determination Services, which are state agencies that review disability claims prior to the hearing level.
3 – “If They Only Knew: Without Expert Help, Disability Applicants Report Facing Foreclosure, Lost Health Insurance, Drained Retirement Savings and Worsening Illness,” online at http://www.allsup.com.

ABOUT ALLSUP
Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs nearly 700 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 http://www.Allsup.com.

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Rebecca Ray
Allsup
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