When the COVID-19 pandemic began in earnest in the spring of 2020, the Social Security Administration (SSA), along with dozens of companies, were forced to close approximately 1,200 field offices and move thousands of employees to the remote work status virtually overnight. For more than a year, it was unclear when or how offices would reopen as the world waited and watched the trajectory of the virus.
SSA offices remained mostly closed to the public, although they offered limited in-person services to people with “urgent” needs. This has caused hardship for the millions of disabled Americans who rely on the responsiveness of the SSA and its employees to apply for and receive their Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) following a work-disrupting disability. Recent negotiations have led to a revised, but still tentative, reopening date of March 30, 2022, more than two full years since the initial closure of field offices.
If you’re one of the millions of people waiting for updates on your application or approval status, here are some tips to maximize your chances of success.
Apply for SSDI immediately.
There is no time to waste applying for SSDI. Due to the closure of field offices, management is seeing a significant backlog. The review of the initial application can take three to six months, and usually only about one in three applications is approved.
Waiting until SSA field offices reopen to apply will only hurt your financial situation, and possibly your savings and retirement fund, especially if you have no other regular income.
If you are considering applying for SSDI, check the eligible disability categories online to see if you are eligible to receive the benefits you deserve and have earned while working.
Call a representative for quick help.
Applying for SSDI is a multi-step process that can be incredibly complex and can be physically and mentally exhausting. Many applications are not approved simply because the applicant has not submitted all of the required documents. Having an experienced and dedicated representative representing your interests can make a huge difference in getting your application and claims approved in a timely manner.
This is especially true since the SSA business process has become more complicated at the individual state level, with different Disability Determination Services (DDS) offices taking different approaches to managing caseloads. An effective representative should know SSA policies and procedures, can advocate for you and your particular disability, and can help ensure that all necessary forms and documents are in order, properly completed, and submitted electronically. at the federal agency.
Set a budget and adjust your spending habits accordingly.
As described above, it will likely take some time for SSA offices and staff to get back up and running once they reopen. This may mean needing to go longer than expected without receiving a benefit payment. Reviewing your finances and creating a budget could help you live below your means and stay financially secure for an interim period while the SSA processes your paperwork.
If you still find yourself short of money, consider researching community, social, or faith-based organizations that may be willing to provide temporary assistance, helping you with food or funds for housing, utilities, and other expenses.
Keep your health insurance.
With the expected delays, it might be tempting to opt out of health insurance. However, it is essential to have medical evidence to back up your claims. Lack of medical records could be a reason your application is denied. Therefore, you should consider your health insurance options, such as COBRA, health insurance market plans, or Medicaid.
If you need to stop paying health insurance premiums due to cost or other circumstances, look for low-cost or free health care clinics serving your area. You can find a list on the federal website: FindAHealthCenter.hrsa.gov.
Vice President, Allup
Steve Perrigo, JD, is Vice President, Sales and Account Management, for Allsup and has over two decades of experience and knowledge of the Social Security Administration (SSA) and its programs. He joined Allsup in August 2010 and helps clients understand their options when coordinating private disability insurance benefits with the Social Security program. Prior to joining Allsup, Steve Perrigo spent 17 years with SSA in various roles of increasing responsibility.