Belleville, Ill. (Vocus/PRWEB) March 09, 2011
It’s a fact that most people need professional representation when they apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) reports that most applicants -- about nine in 10 -- have representation by the time they get to a hearing. It’s a complex, stressful process and expert help is often required. But how do you choose a representative? What qualifications or experience should you look for? What questions should you ask? Allsup, the nation’s leading non-attorney SSDI representation company, offers the following questions and guidelines when considering a potential representative.
Non-Attorney or Attorney?
The SSA explicitly permits non-attorneys to represent SSDI applicants. In fact, your mother-in-law can help you complete the forms, but unless she’s an expert in the SSDI application and disability appeals process, she likely isn’t your best choice. Typically, there are two major types of paid SSDI representatives: Specialized non-attorney organizations like Allsup, which has numerous experienced representatives advocating for individuals no matter where they live, and law firms that may or may not have attorneys dedicated to handling SSDI claims. Do your research and determine what’s best for you. Allsup provides a checklist to help you with Choosing Disability Representation on Allsup.com.
Does Experience Count?
Absolutely. It’s important to find a representative like Allsup who specializes in SSDI and thoroughly understands the nuances of the disability claims process. Don’t be fooled by representatives who try to impress you with claims of local influence that they don’t really have. It’s highly unlikely they will influence the local SSA staff or an administrative law judge. Choosing a representative with expert knowledge of the SSDI process and proven success with helping claimants to receive their benefits is critical to your claim.
When Should I Get Help?
It’s a myth that you shouldn’t hire a representative until you’ve already been denied once. It’s also a misconception that you should wait to apply until you’ve been out of work for a year. It’s always a distinct advantage to have a professional SSDI representative by your side from the beginning and to avoid delay when it’s clear you have a long-term disability (or terminal condition). Your representative will help you properly complete important SSA forms, questionnaires and other paperwork that makes the difference between an award or denial. Having representation from the beginning may allow you to receive your benefits before a hearing would be necessary. For example, Allsup has a significantly higher approval rate than the national average when it comes to claimants’ initial applications.
What Will You Do For Me?
Choose a representative who will remove the burden from you. Ask if they will contact your doctors and collect or update medical records. Will they stay in regular contact with the SSA to ensure your claim is progressing as expected? These steps demonstrate dedication to helping you receive your Social Security Disability Insurance benefits as quickly as possible.
Are You Familiar with My Disability?
Not all disabilities are alike. The SSA has specific disability impairment criteria for hundreds of specific conditions. It’s essential that your representative prepare your claim with details and the specific language required by the SSA to avoid unnecessary delays, a reduced award or an outright denial.
Will You Accompany Me to a Hearing?
About one-quarter of SSDI cases advance to the hearing level before an administrative law judge. An Allsup expert representative accompanies claimants to their hearings, if one is required. However, a hearing may not be necessary if your representative asks for, and is granted, an “on-the-record” decision. This is when the judge decides a claim based on the information provided without an in-person hearing. Approximately 65 percent of Allsup customers who reach the hearing level never have to attend a hearing because they receive an on-the-record decision.
What Are My Chances?
No organization can boast a 100 percent track record, but you should look for a representative with a high success rate. The approval rate and number of individuals awarded their benefits indicates a track record of helping individuals to receive their SSDI benefits. For example, 98 percent of people who complete the SSDI claims and disability appeals process with Allsup receive their benefits.
Will You Guarantee Representation?
No legitimate organization or attorney will represent you if you do not meet the SSA’s rigid definition of a disability. No professional representative will accept a fraudulent or frivolous claim. Professional representatives help applicants to understand their eligibility based on work history and earnings. They carefully screen potential customers to determine the likelihood of qualifying for SSDI. No one benefits when a representative offers false hope to a claimant when he or she knows the SSA will not approve your claim for benefits.
What is Your Fee?
SSA administers the SSDI program and limits the maximum fee to 25 percent of your retroactive SSDI benefits (or backpayment), not to exceed $6,000. Find representation that will not charge you any fees unless you receive your benefits. Don’t forget to ask if there are any hidden additional fees, such as for travel or obtaining medical records.
If you have questions about whether you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits, or handling your disability appeal, please 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 http://www.Allsup.com.