Belleville, Illinois — May 3, 2021 —As the U.S. emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, the country is beginning to understand the long-term impact on those with disabilities. Whether faced with COVID-19 aftereffects, delayed medical treatments, accidents or progressive illnesses, even more people with severe physical or mental conditions could be seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in the near term, reports Allsup, the nation’s premier disability representation company®.
That process, however, is as stressful and complex as ever for those 2 million people who apply for SSDI benefits, according to T.J. Geist, principal advocate for Allsup. “In 2020, the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied 61% of SSDI initial applicants, most of whom applied without professional assistance,” he said.
“Every level of the SSDI process is tough, but those who have experienced representatives to tell their story for them when they first apply or appeal for disability benefits will fare much better,” Geist added.
Allsup representatives have helped over 350,000 customers secure SSDI benefits for more than 37 years. “For example, more than 50% of our customers will get their benefits when first applying, and more than 70% of those we represent at a hearing level appeal will get their benefits,” Geist said.
How do you hire a disability representative? Geist recommends asking seven key questions.
1. Will you represent me when I first apply for SSDI benefits?
Most representatives don’t provide help at the initial application level where only 39% on average are approved for benefits. But, having an experienced representative early in the process increases your opportunity to get benefits approved early and may save you months, if not years, of waiting through appeals. For example, to improve your potential for an early approval, Allsup confirms you meet complicated work rules and medical requirements.
2. What specific activities will you undertake on my behalf?
Trained and compassionate advocates, such as Allsup, are skilled at telling your story and keeping the SSA on its collective toes. Expert representatives monitor, anticipate and stop problems; correct mistakes; and ensure your past work, medical information and the impact of your disability on your daily life are accurate, understood and properly considered. Being available and responsive is valuable to many: Allsup has a 97% customer satisfaction rating.
Some useful questions to ask when seeking representation include:
- What specifically will you do to build my case?
- Will you communicate with the SSA directly on my behalf?
- Will you contact my doctors to assist in collecting or updating medical records as needed?
- Will you charge me for expenses, such as electronic filing or photocopying, medical records or travel?
- Will you help me coordinate my SSDI benefits with my private disability insurance or other benefits?
3. Does your organization have experience representing someone with my type of disability?
Not all disabilities are alike, and some are now complicated even more by “long-haul COVID-19” symptoms and recent changes in how certain disabilities are assessed by the SSA. When thorough medical information is provided about a specific condition in the language mandated by the SSA, SSDI applications are at less risk of being rejected immediately. Allsup’s expert representatives offer tools and guidance to do this effectively, minimizing delays.
4-5. Will I have to attend any hearings, and what’s your role?
If you are denied at both the initial application and reconsideration levels, you may request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). Currently, hearings are occurring only by video or telephone, which require special preparation compared to the usual in-person hearings. An experienced representative will gather relevant medical and vocational information and prepare a well-written brief for the judge. They will manage scheduling and communication with SSA. They will also help prepare you for your testimony and may ask questions of the government’s witnesses. Occasionally, a hearing is avoided if the representative asks for and is granted an “on-the-record” decision. In these cases, the ALJ may choose to make a determination without a formal hearing.
6. What is your success rate?
Not every representative or organization keeps track of its own success rates, and if they don’t, this could be a red flag. Keep in mind that when all is said and done, only about one-third of all people who apply for SSDI benefits will actually obtain them. You want to make sure your representative has a history of success.
7. What is the fee for representation?
All representation fees are set by law and if you don’t get your benefits, there is no fee. Currently, the fee is 25% of the retroactive dollar amount received when benefits are approved — not to exceed $6,000. Those who are approved quickly at the application level typically pay much less. Representatives should not charge you for photocopies, medical records or travel expenses related to your case.
When all the questions are asked and answered, how do you make sure you choose the right representative? “Consider the sense of confidence and trust that you feel after speaking with a potential representation organization,” Geist said. “Will there be a team supporting you? Do they seem genuinely interested in you and your story?
“Most important, will they fight for you? The more confidence you and your advocate have in each other, the more likely you both can succeed.”
If you or someone you know may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, visit FileSSDI.Allsup.com for a free assessment.
Allsup and its subsidiaries provide nationwide Social Security disability, veterans disability appeal, return to work, and healthcare benefits services for individuals, their employers and insurance carriers. Allsup professionals deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. Founded in 1984, the company is based in Belleville, Illinois, near St. Louis. Learn more at Allsup.com and @Allsup or download a free PDF of Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance: Getting It Right The First Time.