Social Security Disability Program Reaches 1,500 Judges To Handle Disability Appeals, Allsup Reports
Belleville, IL (PRWEB) April 10, 2013
The Social Security Administration (SSA) met its goal to increase the number of administrative law judges to more than 1,500 nationwide. With more than 830,000 hearing requests anticipated in fiscal year 2013, individuals should consider Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) representation when preparing for their disability appeals, according to Allsup, which has helped tens of thousands of people to receive their SSDI benefits.
“The number of administrative law judges has a major impact on how quickly decisions on SSDI claims can be made,” said Mike Stein, assistant vice president of claims for Allsup, which provides SSDI representation at the disability appeal level. “Increasing the number of judges who can hear cases is one strategy to help the SSA manage the large backlog of SSDI claims.”
According to December 2012 figures, SSA had reached 1,566 judges on staff, achieving its stated goal of reaching more than 1,500 judges. The SSA had 1,334 judges in December 2009.
However, current federal budget limitations may affect the SSA’s ability to maintain staffing at this level. According to the SSA’s Annual Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2014, hiring additional judges will be delayed until 2014. In the meantime, judges who have recently retired can be brought back to help with the caseload, the report stated.
SSDI is a federally mandated disability insurance program. Individuals pay for this federal insurance through their FICA payroll taxes. The program is separate from Medicare, Medicaid and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. SSDI provides monthly benefits to people under full retirement age (age 65 or older) who can no longer work because of a severe disability that is expected to last 12 months or more, or is terminal.
What To Expect At A Disability Hearing
Only a portion of SSDI claims reach this level of disability appeal, but it’s wise to have expert guidance if someone receives a hearing before an administrative law judge, Stein said. Nearly 80 percent of claimants have a representative at the hearing level, according to the SSA.
Benefits from having an SSDI representative include personalized assistance and advance preparation on what to expect, especially in understanding how an in-person or video hearing will be conducted.
Allsup outlines the following information on what to expect and how to prepare.
1. Study a map and arrive on time. Make sure you know when and where the hearing will be held and be sure of your parking options. Arrive with plenty of time to talk with your SSDI representative and be ready to go before the judge, who is typically on a tight schedule. Claimants running late risk seeing their hearing rescheduled, which is a significant setback to the claim.
2. Know what is in the file. It’s important to know the contents, including medical records, for the disability appeal because the judge will ask about the information that was provided. Judges may ask about medical records, work history and anything else in the records. Be sure to bring updated records to the hearing. Those with a representative should work with their advocate to gather all medical updates as soon as the hearing is scheduled.
3. Expect to participate in the hearing. Even if an SSDI representative is at someone’s side, the judge can ask the claimant to answer questions about his or her own claim. Also, showing up is critical, in order to ensure the hearing isn’t rescheduled or dismissed. The ALJ may reschedule a hearing for a claimant who experiences a serious illness or a death in the family.
4. Be prepared to explain the claim for disability benefits. Several people may participate in the hearing—the judge, a hearing assistant to record the proceedings, witnesses, medical or vocational experts, and the claimant’s SSDI representative, if they have one. The hearing typically involves a series of statements made for the record, and questions from the judge to the claimant and others. The judge may ask about the claimant’s disability, how it happened; the impact, such as pain and other symptoms, and affect on the person’s life. The vocational expert will respond to hypothetical questions from the judge about any limitations related to the person’s ability to work. The typical hearing may last 45 minutes to an hour.
Following the hearing, it may take several weeks or months for the ALJ to render a decision. “Many people expect the judge will decide the claim at the conclusion of the hearing, but this is not very common,” Stein explained. Judges typically do not issue the decision until after it has been written.
“A critical mistake is to wait too long to get a representative, especially once your hearing is scheduled,” Stein said. “If you plan to file a disability appeal, reach out to an expert SSDI representative like Allsup who has representatives who are familiar with the judges’ expectations and the requirements of the hearing process.”
Unlike some attorneys, Allsup does not charge for medical records, travel expenses or out-of-pocket costs. There are no retainers required and the fee is contingent, meaning Allsup is only paid if the claimant receives his or her benefits.
At the hearing level, only 47 percent of claimants without a representative will receive benefits, according to SSA data. Compare that to Allsup’s 80 percent success rate for claimants at the hearing level.
For those who have questions about filing their disability appeal, call the Allsup Disability Evaluation Center for a free SSDI evaluation at (800) 678-3276.
Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, veterans disability appeal, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs more than 800 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. Visit http://www.Allsup.com or connect with Allsup at http://www.facebook.com/Allsupinc.