Social Security to reopen more than 1,200 field offices after 2 years of closure – InsuranceNewsNet
The SSA has announced a revised draft plan for back to schoolwhich means a return to in-person services, effective March 30, 2022. Although the doors will be open, SSA staff will gradually return to Social Security field offices and more than 160 hearing offices throughout the country.
“This is an extremely important transition for the SSA, which is likely to see significant workloads in order to fully restore in-person services to pre-pandemic levels,” said TJ Geist, Principal Allsup lawyer.
“We anticipate that many people have struggled with SSA COVID 19 emergency policies and procedures, decreased mail processing, and online and telephone services. Agency offices will feel the effects once they reopen,” Geist said. “In addition, the SSA is determining whether and how many employees will telecommute, part-time or full-time, which will affect in-person service levels.”
The Social Security disability insurance program, in particular, has been extremely difficult for individuals to navigate due to office closures. This has affected incoming and pending claims, the timeliness of disability determinations, appeals and disability hearings, Geist added.
“The reopening of SSA offices can’t come soon enough, especially for former workers with disabilities,” said Mary Dale Walters, senior vice president of strategic communications at Allsup. “Americans’ Social Security disability claims have dropped dramatically due to lack of access. Critical documents – in print or digital form – are not being processed in a timely manner and wait times for decisions have increased, creating hardship for thousands of people in need of benefit income. This means that an experienced SSDI representative like Allsup will be even more vital in moving applicants’ claims through the disability process.
The SSA has experienced a significant backlog in processing requests and appeals for reconsideration. The backlog of pending initial requests requiring a decision increased by 25%, from 593,944 to nearly 740,000 at the end of fiscal year 2021. Processing times for these requests also increased, taking 52 days from more on average for the SSA to process initial applications in 2021 than it did in 2019. This delay has also caused drastic real-world effects, as incoming applications decreased by nearly 16% and phone calls have increased by the millions per month on average. See the link infographics“American Workers’ Least Understood Insurance Policy.”
“Allsup is closely monitoring the impact on those it represents as well as the SSA, and would rank this as the most significant disruption to the delivery of critical services we have seen in our 38 years as an organization. of representation. It’s hard on the agency and its employees, and the result is that many people and their families have been pushed into greater financial distress as they deal with deteriorating health conditions and the inability to work,” Walters said.
In order to more effectively meet the growing needs of the public during this challenging time, Allsup recommends that SSA incorporate the following into its reopening plan.
- Focus on reducing wait times. The agency should reinstate policies and strategies that reduce wait times for each level of the SSDI application and appeal process.
- Partner with third-party vendors. The workload for SSA office workers, even when the offices are fully operational, will be daunting. Telling applicants with disabilities the help of third-party representatives, the same way the IRS works with tax preparers, can make a significant difference.
To make it easier for applicants with disabilities to go through the SSDI process, including application and appeals, it is important that people with serious medical conditions:
- Confirm they are SSDI eligible here.
- Hire a disability representative like Allsup to help you when you’re ready to apply for benefits because you’re 23% more likely to be approved. It also means reducing wait times by approximately 316 days by avoiding a hearing.
- By the time claimants arrive at a hearing, 8 out of 10 have a representative, so getting help early and realizing a 50% higher chance of getting benefits early and with Allsup is key.
To hear from an Allsup customer about their experience, watch this video.
See the link infographics“American Workers’ Least Understood Insurance Policy.”
Help filing a disability claim and appealing a denial
For help with your Social Security disability claim, visit allsup.com/apply-for-ssdi or call 1-800-678-3276.
Allsup and its affiliates provide nationwide Social Security disability, veterans disability appeal, return to work, and health care benefits services for individuals, their employers, and insurance companies. Allsup professionals provide specialized services to help people with disabilities and seniors so they can lead as financially secure and healthy lives as possible. Founded in 1984, the company is based in Belleville, Illinois, near St. Louis. Learn more about Allsup.com and @Allsup or download free pdf of Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance: Getting It Right the First Time.
Rebecca Ray Allsup (618) 236-5065 [email protected] Samantha Fernandez Pinkston (703) 946-0326 [email protected]