If They Only Knew: Without Expert Help, Disability Applicants Report Facing Foreclosure, Lost Health Insurance, Drained Retirement Savings and Worsening Illness
Allsup survey finds 85 percent of applicants say the SSA should explain assistance options at beginning of Social Security Disability Insurance application process
Belleville, Ill - Nov. 17, 2009 - An overwhelming majority of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applicants face grave setbacks and wish they would have known from the start that expert representation to assist them was available, according to a national survey. People with disabilities experienced financial crises, extreme stress and declining health while stuck in the federal disability backlog, according to results compiled and released by Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security disability representation and Medicare services.
Arthur Blair, of Gaithersburg, Md., was a program manager at a group home before a combination of osteoarthritis, severe back pain and depression made it impossible for him to keep working. During his two-year wait for SSDI benefits, Mr. Blair tapped deep into his savings and had to sell his home after he and his wife were unable to make their mortgage payments. His condition also worsened.
"I think the process takes away our humanity," said Blair. "There are no resources to help you. You are in a financially devastating position, and by the time you're approved, you have accumulated so much debt and lost everything you've worked for. It's almost impossible to recuperate what you lost."
A survey of nearly 300 successful SSDI claimants who came to Allsup after having their initial disability applications rejected by the SSA finds:
- Nearly 80 percent of respondents reported facing "barriers to handling the SSDI process on [their] own," including problems with understanding (48 percent) and completing (61 percent) the necessary forms.
- Three-fourths (75 percent) said the level of stress they experienced while applying for SSDI benefits was either "extreme" (39 percent) or "significant" (36 percent).
- Only half (51 percent) of all applicants knew third-party representatives could help them apply for SSDI benefits.
In addition, almost 90 percent of applicants said they faced negative repercussions while waiting for their SSDI award. These included:
- Stress on family - 63 percent
- Worsening illness - 53 percent
- Draining of retirement/savings - 35 percent
- Lost health insurance - 24 percent
- Missed mortgage payments - 14 percent
- Foreclosure - 6 percent
- Bankruptcy - 5 percent
Almost nine in 10 (85 percent) survey respondents said they would have found it useful for the SSA to inform them in advance of their options for receiving help with their SSDI application. Another 83 percent would have found it helpful or valuable if the SSA had provided them with a list of authorized third-party representatives to choose from.
"Because applicants too often don't know help is available, too many initial claims are denied for simple mistakes that have nothing to do with the applicant's disability status," said Jim Allsup, president and CEO of Allsup. "If they only knew third-party assistance was available to professionally review their application and help properly document their disability, thousands of claimants could get through faster and avoid painful financial and personal repercussions of getting stuck in the system."
Allsup conducted the survey by mail June 29 through Sept. 4, 2009.For more information and full survey results, please contact Colleen O'Boyle, (703) 683-5004, ext. 122, firstname.lastname@example.org.