Social Security Disability Expert Answers SSDI Questions

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Allsup professional explains process as more people apply to Social Security

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“SSDI is a very complicated process and people can benefit from having an expert such as Allsup to rely on from day one.” - David Bueltemann, Allsup manager of senior claims representatives

Compared to the past decade, more people are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, raising key questions for applicants and pointing to the importance of understanding how the program works, according to Allsup, an SSDI representation company that has helped tens of thousands to receive their Social Security benefits.

In February, there were 232,555 initial applicants for SSDI benefits, which is an increase of 6 percent compared to 218,654 applicants in February 2010, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). It’s an increase of nearly 10 percent compared to two years ago, when 212,378 people applied.

“SSDI is a very complicated process and people can benefit from having an expert such as Allsup to rely on from day one,” said David Bueltemann, Allsup manager of senior claims representatives. “It’s important to understand this is not an easy program to enter and there are multiple, stringent criteria to meet in order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.”

Bueltemann pointed out that besides guiding applicants through the application and appeals process, a professional representative such as Allsup can answer individuals’ SSDI questions along the way. Below, Bueltemann provides answers to some of the more common SSDI questions.

What’s the difference between SSDI and SSI?
SSDI is a program based upon contributions made by individuals working and paying into Social Security. Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes are withheld by Social Security on wages paid to an individual. If a person earns enough work credits, he or she is insured for disability benefits. If eligible for SSDI, the amount of the benefit is based on how much a person earned and how much was paid into Social Security. The average monthly disability payment in 2010 was $1,064.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a separate program administered by the SSA and funded by general tax revenues. It pays monthly benefits to the elderly, the blind and people with disabilities with low incomes and few material assets. For example, one cannot collect SSI benefits if his or her assets (not including a single home or automobile) exceed $2,000 for a single person or $3,000 for a couple. The maximum SSI benefit in 2010 for an individual is $674 per month and $1,011 for a couple.

How do I qualify for SSDI?
You must be insured. Generally, that means you must have worked and paid into the program (mandatory payroll taxes) for five of the last 10 years. However, an individual disabled prior to age 31 would qualify with less than five years work. For example, a person disabled at age 24 needs only six work credits. If disabled at age 29, he or she needs 16 work credits. You earn one work credit for each yearly quarter that you are employed. You also must meet SSA’s definition of disability.

What is Social Security’s definition of disability?
SSDI and SSI share the same definition of what constitutes a disability. It is the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) that can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted, or can be expected to last, 12 months or longer. Allsup professionals work within SSA guidelines to ensure all necessary information is gathered and presented with each claim for Social Security benefits.

Is it difficult to qualify for SSDI benefits?
Yes, it is. The SSA denies about two-thirds of all initial disability applications. That’s why it’s so important to have a professional representative guide you through the process. Allsup has more than 700 disability experts on its staff, including many former SSA employees. They know the system and the disability review and adjudication process.

Do I need a representative?
It’s not required, but an experienced representative will dramatically improve your chances of receiving disability benefits. As a group, Allsup senior representatives alone have accumulated more than 550 years Social Security disability experience.

Can I appeal if the SSA denies my claim?
Absolutely. You have 60 days to appeal the first denial, which is called reconsideration in most states. If you are denied again at this stage, you have 60 days to appeal and ask for a hearing before an administrative law judge. If you are denied again, you have another 60 days to appeal to the Appeals Council. If denied by the Appeals Council, you can then file outside the SSA system at federal district court.

How long does it take to get a decision?
The wait varies from state to state. Generally, it takes between three to six months to receive a decision on an initial application. Reconsideration (first appeal) will take another three to five months. A hearing decision may take another nine to 15 months, or longer.

How much will I receive?
The benefit amount is based on a complicated formula largely determined by how much you have earned. The average monthly payment in 2010 was $1,064.

Individuals with questions about whether they qualify for Social Security disability benefits, or handling their disability appeal, may contact the Allsup Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 279-4357 for a free SSDI evaluation.

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 more than 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

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Rebecca Ray
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