April 8, 2020

Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability Insurance Representation

Allsup explains the ins and outs of SSDI representation for former workers with disabilities

Belleville, Illinois — April 9, 2020 This year about 2.4 million people are expected to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits when they can no longer work due to debilitating medical or mental illnesses. According to Allsup, a nationwide provider of disability representation and return to work services, only 36% are eventually approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA), which processes the claims and oversees the Disability Insurance Trust Fund. The SSA also predicts a backlog of over 700,000 applications in 2020 − up from 594,000 in 2019.

Former workers who face serious medical conditions that prevent them from working can apply for SSDI benefits provided they meet the criteria:

  • They are between 21 years and full retirement age.
  • Their disability is expected to last at least 12 months or is terminal.
  • They paid FICA taxes five out of the last 10 years.

Dan Contreras, Allsup lead advocate, explained how having representation can significantly improve the odds of an applicant getting approved for SSDI benefits and receiving them faster.

“The SSDI process can be long, cumbersome and typically complex,” Contreras said. “The stats are not favorable for those who don’t have competent and skilled representation, especially at the application and reconsideration levels.”

Allsup has helped hundreds of thousands of people navigate the complicated SSDI process, obtaining approvals that are 50% higher than the national average. Former workers with disabilities should know before they apply if they are likely eligible for SSDI benefits, according to Contreras. Allsup offers a free online tool, empower by Allsup®. Those who are eligible can use empower to get started right away with their application and Allsup as their representative. With more than 35 years representing claimants, Allsup receives thousands of questions each month about this service.

Most Frequently Asked Questions About SSDI Representation

  1. Should I have a representative to help with my SSDI application?

It’s typically a good idea. First-time applicants with expert help will experience higher rates of approval, and that means getting benefits faster. Also, most people who apply for benefits on their own don’t know in advance if they are insured for SSDI and meet all the eligibility criteria. Then they are presented with unfamiliar government forms and deceptively simple questions. An experienced representative makes the process easier for the applicant and delivers better results.

  1. How knowledgeable and experienced is the organization in representing individuals applying for SSDI and in the appeals process?

It’s best to look for a representative like Allsup that specializes in SSDI and has a lot of experience handling both applications and appeals. Having an expert who understands the complete SSDI process means less interruption in the claim. It can ensure medical evidence and changes in the individual’s condition are documented consistently, and communications between all parties is efficient. Be aware of representatives who try to sway with their local knowledge and influence. It’s highly unlikely they have special power over local SSA staff or can ensure a hearing will take place in front of a specific judge.

  1. What specific activities will the representative undertake on my behalf?

Expert representatives, such as Allsup, help applicants prepare key information and offer helpful online tools such as empower by Allsup®. Trained and compassionate advocates keep the SSA on its collective toes—anticipating and stopping problems, correcting mistakes and ensuring the information is properly considered. Some useful questions to ask when seeking representation include:

  • What is your overall experience with SSDI claims?
  • What will you exactly do for me?
  • Will you communicate with the SSA directly on my behalf?
  • What kind of tools and technology do you use to make the process less daunting?
  1. Does the organization have experience representing someone with my disability?

Not all disabilities are alike. Social Security has identified disability criteria in its Listing of Impairments. Conditions include respiratory and musculoskeletal disorders, mental illnesses, and cardiovascular, immune system and neurological impairments. SSDI applications are at less risk of being rejected immediately when thorough medical information is provided and is in the language required by the SSA. Knowledgeable representatives offer tools and guidance to do this effectively, minimizing delays.

  1. Will I have to attend any hearings?

After a claim is denied at both the initial and reconsideration levels, an applicant may proceed to an in-person or video hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ). The representative will prepare the individual for the hearing, provide the ALJ with a case brief and update medical evidence. The representative will present the individual’s claim to the ALJ and question witnesses and experts called by the SSA. Sometimes, a hearing is not necessary when the representative asks for and is granted an “on-the-record” decision, during which the SSA reviews the information in the applicant’s file and a well-written brief by the representative.

  1. What is the organization’s success rate?

Consumers should look for a representative with a high success rate in securing SSDI benefits for its clients. This shows the rep can deliver the results in a very complex and time-consuming process. For more than 35 years, Allsup has secured benefits for more than 325,000 people with a current success rate of 97% for those who complete the process with Allsup.

  1. What is the fee for representation?

First, an SSDI applicant doesn’t owe a fee to the representative unless he or she successfully obtains benefits. All fees are set by law and are the same for all representatives. Currently, it 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. In general, the SSA deducts the representative’s fee from the claimant’s lump-sum payment and passes it along to the representative directly. Allsup suggests asking the representative about any additional costs, such as travel and lodging or collection of medical records.

  1. Will a representative help me understand and access the other benefits that come with SSDI?

A range of other benefits are available to those approved for SSDI, and a representative should be knowledgeable and able to explain these. Allsup provides free help with enrolling in Medicare, a benefit of SSDI available 24 months after cash benefits begin. In addition, Allsup Employment Services provides free assistance for SSDI beneficiaries who want to try to return to work. Allsup also helps coordinate benefits from both public and private sources.

To apply for disability benefits or get help with a disability appeal, visit FileSSDI.Allsup.com.


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 TrueHelp.com and @Allsup.



Written by