Belleville, Ill. – Jan. 25, 2010 –The myths that surround filing for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits often mislead and deter individuals from applying for benefits in a timely fashion or as soon as they are eligible, according to Allsup, which represents tens of thousands of people in the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application and hearing process each year.
People with disabilities have numerous health hurdles to overcome and face daily decisions regarding treatment for their injury or chronic illness. Because of their changing health, they must cope with family issues and decisions about their finances and work. All of these issues can delay someone’s decision to apply for Social Security disability benefits.
“Allsup gets many calls from people who have been forced to quit working because of a disability and then waited—almost too long—before filing for SSDI benefits,” said Paul Gada, a tax attorney and personal financial planning director for Allsup. “They end up draining their personal savings and even tapping into their retirement savings to pay living costs. They don’t realize that they should have applied for Social Security disability benefits earlier.”
Allsup professionals provide free disability evaluation services to help individuals determine if they are eligible to apply. Those discussions often reveal misconceptions about SSDI benefits, a federal program administered by the Social Security Administration.
For example, many people think eligibility for SSDI benefits is means based, or only available to individuals with little or no income. This is not true. SSDI is a payroll tax-funded, federal insurance program, said Mr. Gada. “It doesn’t matter how much money you have in the bank to qualify for SSDI benefits. You simply need to have paid FICA taxes for a given time through your employer or as a self-employed worker.” FICA taxes, or payroll taxes, fund Social Security and Medicare programs.
Some people believe they must wait 12 months after the onset of their disability or after they quit working to apply for SSDI benefits.
“There is no 12-month waiting period to apply for Social Security disability benefits,” Mr. Gada said. “Waiting—even a few months—simply isn’t necessary and can create additional hardship for you and your family. Keep in mind that initial SSDI applications take several months to process, and some applicants end up waiting years to be awarded benefits.”
The SSA follows a five-step sequential process to evaluate applications for disability benefits and makes decisions based on medical documentation, work history, age and other factors.
Individuals considering applying on their own may not realize the difficulty and complexity of the SSDI process. The average application can be hundreds of pages, and the current national average wait time at the hearing level of the process is 491 days. To provide yourself with the best advantage, consider that 56 percent of Allsup customers are awarded at the application level, compared with the national average of 36 percent.
“Coping with a disability is stressful, but more people are enduring added distress because they haven’t applied for SSDI and don’t realize how much easier the process can be with expert SSDI representation,” Mr. Gada said.
Why You Want Social Security Disability Insurance
To help educate and explain the options for people with disabilities, Allsup has outlined eight benefits of SSDI:
Regular monthly income: SSDI is a regular monthly payment and usually provides annual cost-of-living increases (though none for 2010). A portion of these disability benefits may be tax free.
Medical benefits: Regardless of your age, 24 months after your date of entitlement to cash SSDI benefits, you are eligible for Medicare, including Part A (hospital benefits) and Part B (medical benefits). A variety of Medicare Advantage plans also are available to you.
Prescription drug coverage: Once you are entitled to Medicare, you are eligible for Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage).
COBRA extension: If you receive SSDI benefits, it may be possible to extend your COBRA benefits an additional 11 months.
Long-term disability (LTD) benefits: If you have private long-term disability insurance, your provider may require you to seek SSDI. Complying with this requirement could help protect your ability to receive LTD income and other benefits.
Protected retirement benefits: When you reach retirement age, SSDI ends and you transition to Social Security retirement benefits. Social Security disability entitlement “freezes” Social Security earnings records during your period of disability. Because the years in which you collect SSDI benefits are not counted when computing future benefits, your Social Security retirement benefits may be higher than if your earnings were averaged with those years of zero earnings.
Dependent benefits: If you receive SSDI benefits and you have a dependent under age 18, he or she also may be eligible for benefits.
Return-to-work incentives: Social Security will provide you opportunities to return to work while still paying you disability benefits.
To find out if you may be eligble to apply for SSDI benefits, contact the Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 279-4357 and ask for a free evaluation.
Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and workers’ compensation services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs more than 600 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, go to www.Allsup.com.