SSA Offices Open After Two Years, Faced with Growing Backlog of Social Security Disability Claims
Allsup offers help navigating the SSDI program as 142,000 more pending applications are expected during the next 6 months
Belleville, Illinois — April 7, 2022 — More than 1,200 Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices opened to the public today after a two-year shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, offices are not expected to be staffed at pre-pandemic levels because in-person staffing will vary, and some are taking individuals only by appointment. A slow return to normalcy for the SSA is expected to add to the expanding lines and wait times for former workers seeking help obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, said Allsup, a nationwide provider of SSDI representation and veterans disability appeals services.
Field offices, which help process initial SSDI applications, already face a growing volume of claims. SSA data show as of February 2022, 796,965 people are waiting an average of six months to learn if they will obtain benefits or appeal a denial and move forward in the disability determination process. The SSA projects that pending SSDI applications will swell by more than 142,000 people to reach 939,000 pending claims by fiscal year-end on Sept. 30, 2022.
“A former worker with a disability who needs help today, joins 1,333,408 others currently moving through the four levels of this complex program,” said Mary Dale Walters, Senior Vice President of Strategic Communications for Allsup.
About 64% will have their initial application denied and many will begin the long appeal process to a hearing. That’s an average projected wait time of 747 days in total – more than two years. About 50,000 others have appealed their hearing denial to the Appeals Council and will wait another seven months, Allsup estimates.
“SSA serves millions of people through its field offices every year. ‘Walk ins’ can expect long lines and those who schedule a field office appointment by telephone should be prepared to wait weeks or months for their in-person visit,” said T.J. Geist, Principal Advocate for Allsup. “Since March 2020, people seeking SSDI benefits faced more obstacles than ever when navigating the program. And SSA’s web-based ‘self-service’ approach through this unfamiliar and sometimes subjective process can be intimidating for many.
“A 2021 study by National Bureau of Economic Research suggested that having an SSDI representative assist you with your application improves the likelihood of an approval by 23%,” Geist added. “As the study indicates, this is often because an experienced representative understands the SSA’s medical listings and how to thoroughly document that someone meets these listings.”
With over 38 years of experience, Allsup has helped more than 350,000 people with disabilities receive SSDI benefits, which include monthly income, Medicare coverage, Social Security retirement protection and free return to work assistance. Allsup experts, including many former Social Security employees, can help throughout the SSDI application and appeals process.
Why Choose a Representative when Seeking SSDI?
Allsup outlines key reasons for working with a representative when seeking SSDI benefits.
- Telling Your Personal Story. A qualified representative understands how to explain and document the impact of your disability on your life and ability to work. Without expert help, your personal and unique story can be often lost in an array of cold government forms.
- Guidance with complexity. The SSDI process is more complex than it appears. Your claim could go through as many as four different SSA units, each with a different responsibility related to your claim. The details and nuances of your work history, FICA payments, vocational factors, medical listings, consultative exams and activities of daily living aren’t easy for most to grasp fully without expert help.
- Avoid lengthy appeals. Having an expert representative when you first apply improves the likelihood that you will get your benefits early. That means a possible six-month wait instead of two to three years.
- Communication support. Communicating with a big government agency can be challenging, especially when it communicates primarily by mail and uses confusing or unfamiliar language. Representatives handle all the communications, make sure you meet SSA deadlines, resolve issues and respond to agency requests for more information about your claim.
- Advocacy for your appeal, if denied. Denials can happen and that means having someone ready to fight for you. A representative helps you understand when to appeal a denial that typically leads to a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). They will develop your claim further for the ALJ’s review, prepare you for the hearing, appear on your behalf and depose government witnesses during the proceedings.
- Medical condition knowledge. Top-notch representatives study medical trends, understand chronic medical conditions and determine how to respond to and document developments. For example, Allsup notes that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently said employer-reported respiratory illnesses among U.S. workers increased nearly 4,000% in 2020, signaling long-term effects from COVID-19. Allsup is already seeing and successfully obtaining benefits for many whose disability had been made worse by the virus.
- Better rate of approval. Most important, having an experienced representative matters when it comes to getting benefits. Eligible applicants simply have a better chance of success when they have someone advocating for them at each level of the SSDI program. If an applicant appeals a denial and requests a hearing, for example, Allsup’s benefit award rate is 18% higher than the national average of 51%.
Learn more about the basics of SSDI by visiting SSDI 101 before you apply.
To hear from an Allsup customer about his experience, watch this video.
Help with SSDI Claims and Appeals
For more information about applying for SSDI benefits, filing your appeal if you were denied, or to see if you are eligible, visit Allsup.com/apply-for-ssdi or call 1-800-678-3276.
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.