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Forget the Numbers, Hear the Stories of the SSDI Backlog

2017 December 11

By Regina Carlton

People around the country are learning what we at Allsup have known for years: people face financial devastation and psychological distress when they have to wait years for their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Last month, two major U.S. newspapers shared stories of SSDI claimants with severe and long-term disabilities who are fighting to survive. The Washington Post article, “597 Days. And Still Waiting,” included an excellent video explaining the SSDI process, including data on who gets stuck in the backlog and who gets approved for benefits at each level of the process.

The Orange County Register ran a piece called, “Is Social Security Cheating the Disabled?”

Here are just a few SSDI facts the Post and the Register mentioned:

  • More than a million people are waiting in line for a hearing.
  • On average, they will wait nearly two years.
  • About 19,000 people—taxpayers who paid the required “premiums” for this federally mandated insurance program—died while waiting in that line for a decision.

Numbers are important, but they don’t tell the whole story.  People tell stories―people like Joe, Rebecca and Lisa, who were featured in the newspaper articles.

I hear stories like theirs every day, and it’s what drives my team and me to make sure the people we help have the best initial SSDI application possible. If you are approved for disability benefits at the initial level, you can receive your decision within three to six months. If you are denied, you’re thrust into an appeals process that could take more than two years.

Social Security denies two-thirds of all initial applications, but at Allsup, more than half of the people we represent get approved at the initial level.

Like most everything else in life, doing it right the first time is best. Allsup makes it easy to get the best start possible, with the online tool, empower by Allsup.

No matter what step you’re at in the SSDI process, Allsup experts can help you. You are more than a number. You have a story to tell.

At Allsup, we hear you.

Caregivers Can Save Time with the Power of empower

2017 November 7

By the Old Sarge

If you’re a caregiver for someone with a serious and long-term disability, you already know that your time is precious.

Somehow, along with living your own life, you have to find time to tend to the physical and emotional needs of the person you’re caring for. This may include helping them shop, cook, taking care of their personal hygiene, and ensuring they are as comfortable as possible.

And, of course, helping them pay their bills.

Money is always a huge concern. Unless they are lucky enough to be financially independent, just paying the mortgage or rent, putting food on the table, buying their prescription medications, and meeting medical co-pays, may drain what little resources they may have set aside.

That’s why it’s important to consider helping them apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.  Overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA), SSDI pays monthly benefits to people who are no longer able to work because of a long-term disability. This federal program is truly a godsend for people who are left scratching for every penny at the end of the month.

SSDI may be a life-changing solution for the person you’re caring for. Unfortunately, applying for these benefits is a complicated and lengthy process requiring a ton of paperwork. First, you’ll have to answer several basic questions. Do they have a work history? Are they under full retirement age? Do they meet the SSA’s definition of disabled?

And then it gets difficult. Most people need professional help to answer all the questions and properly complete the required paperwork. It’s important to do it right the first time,

That’s why empower by Allsup® is so important.

empower by Allsup is a unique and powerful dual purpose online tool that puts more than 30 years’ experience to work for you and the person you’re caring for. First, empower helps you determine if your loved one is a good candidate to receive SSDI benefits and meets the SSA’s strict eligibility requirements. If so, an easy to understand video will guide you both through the application process with simple step-by-step audio and written instructions.

When you use empower by Allsup to help the person you’re caring for apply for SSDI, their chances of being approved will increase by 50 percent. Best yet, if their health recovers to the point they can return to work, empower will help them do just that.

November is National Family Caregivers Month, and the Caregiver Action Network has declared this year’s theme, “Caregiving Around the Clock”.

It’s time to save time. Check out empower by Allsup today.

We Call It SSDI 101, But It’s So Much More

2017 November 6

By Leia of Allsup

Before I started at Allsup nearly eight years ago, I didn’t know much about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). I didn’t have any relatives or friends who applied for disability benefits, so I was in for a rude awakening on how complex this topic was.

Often people don’t know where to begin when they have been diagnosed with a severe health condition that is expected to last 12 months or longer. They may not even see themselves as having a disability because it’s so abrupt and life-changing.

Additionally, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding SSDI, which is why we created “SSDI101: The Path To Benefits,” located at

We took our 30+ years of experience and the questions we most often receive and answered them all in one place.

We start by explaining what SSDI is, who may qualify and how you receive it. One of my favorite features is the monthly disability income calculator. You can select the year you were born and your average annual income, and it provides you with an estimated monthly payment.

In addition, you can see the most common types of disabilities among former workers receiving Social Security disability. There’s also a glossary of key terms—helpful for navigating the disability maze.

Another important section explains how long the SSDI application and appeals process takes. Getting approved for SSDI can take a very long time and hiring an SSDI representative can help speed up this process and make it go more smoothly.

If you have questions about SSDI, I encourage you to visit

There you can download a free worksheet to help you gather the details you’ll need when you’re ready to apply for disability benefits.

I hope SSDI101 has the answers you’re looking for. If it doesn’t, please click below to leave a comment.

Employment and Multiple Sclerosis

2017 October 31
Steve Nissen of the National MS Society

Steve Nissen of the National MS Society

Steve Nissen, Director, MS Navigator Services Delivery.

MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

If you have met one person with multiple sclerosis (MS), then you have met one person with MS. No two experiences are the same. MS is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms vary from person to person and range from numbness and tingling to walking difficulties, fatigue, dizziness, pain, depression, blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person can’t be predicted.

Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50—their prime career years. At least two to three times more women than men are diagnosed with the disease. At this age, many people have already completed their advanced training and education and they’ve been working and moving up the career ladder. They bring a wealth of experience.

Proactively think about relationship between MS and employment

It’s never too soon to think about the impact MS can have on employment, and vice versa.  Often, people with MS don’t reach out for information and support until they face an employment crisis. Plan ahead as much as possible and learn about key employment issues including:

  • Legal protections in the workplace, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Issues surrounding disclosure, such as when is it necessary, to whom, what to say, and potential advantages and disadvantages of that decision
  • Understanding accommodations: Many symptoms can be managed, but the responsibility to ask for what is needed is up to the employee
  • Tap into available resources, whether it is to gain or to maintain employment

National MS Society Logo

Maintaining employment is possible

Many people living with MS want to work and continue to work despite their symptoms, which can often be managed on the job with accommodations. This includes computer and other forms of assistive technology, proper ergonomic workstation set-up, arrangement of workspace by task frequency and priority, flexible work schedule such as telecommuting or altered hours, elimination of distractions and clutter that might impair attention, and other cognitive functioning. The type of accommodations may change over time as symptoms change, when a person experiences an exacerbation or when the job situation changes. Variability of symptoms may require accommodations to change.  There are many resources available — use them and share them:

Connect with National MS Society resources to help you plan how best to manage the potential impact MS may have on employment

Editors note: Today is the last day of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. However, the National MS Society and other organizations provide employment resources and guidance year-round.

Applying for Disability Benefits Does Not Have To Be So Scary

2017 October 30

SSDI does not have to be scaryBy Jim of Allsup

You’ve probably heard horror stories about how many people who apply for disability benefits are denied.

Yes, there are long lines of people waiting for a hearing on their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims. Unfortunately, the stories are true. Today, more than a million people are waiting years in a line for a decision.

Applying for disability benefits can be a grueling process, and no one is more eager for a favorable decision than you.

But Allsup ranks a close second. That’s why we created empower by Allsup®. We have taken a stressful process, with complex forms and many rules—and streamlined it for you: our customers.

Following a few simple steps with our online tool can make your experience better. You can feel more empowered in the SSDI process. You can learn more about your likelihood of being eligible for benefits and have help on your side when you apply.

empower by Allsup is the result of our more than 30 years of SSDI experience—invested in a more timely way to help you apply.  We have helped more than 275,000 people receive their SSDI benefits.

Using empower When You Apply For Disability

You can:

  1. Receive a free assessment for likelihood of SSDI eligibility based on Social Security’s program requirements.
  2. Begin your SSDI application online with Allsup. It doesn’t require visiting, scheduling an appointment or calling the Social Security Administration.
  3. Learn more about all of the advantages of your SSDI benefits, including protection for your retirement income and eventual eligibility for Medicare.
  4. Understand your options for eventually returning to work—no you don’t have to give up on the idea of returning to work when you apply for disability.

You have paid for these benefits while working, so don’t pass them up—especially if you are thinking about returning to work after a long road to rehabilitation or recovery.

In addition, more than half of the people Allsup helps are approved for SSDI benefits at the initial application level. This means they never get mired in the SSDI hearing backlog.

The best part is, there’s no waiting in line. Start your SSDI application from your home, and the easy-to-understand information is readily available on your desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device.

Choose the online tool that can make a difference in your life by using empower by Allsup to apply for Social Security disability benefits.

Social Security’s Small Increase Helps Disability, Retirement Benefits

2017 October 18

By Allsup

Every dollar helps when it comes to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and retirement benefits, and it’ll be a little bit more next year.

The Social Security Administration announced last week that the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will increase by 2 percent—the biggest jump since 2011. COLA increases are partly based on the annual Consumer Price Index, which factors in the inflation rate for goods and services.

More than 2.5 million retired federal government and military retirees will also enjoy the same 2 percent increase in their monthly checks.

The pay bump will increase the average SSDI benefit by about $288 a year, from $1,173 to $1,197. You’re wrong if you think that a 2 percent increase won’t make a real difference.

Because of the magic of the compounding effect, even small increases can make a big difference over the years. For example, if you increase your checking account of $1,000 by 5 percent, you’ll have $1,050. Because the next 5-percent increase will be based on the new amount, you’ll then have $1,102.50. After 10 years of such “minor” differences, your original $1,000 is now magically $1,650.

The COLA is one of those important reasons to apply for disability benefits.

When a severe disability gets in the way of your ability to work for a year or longer—it’s a day by day, dollar by dollar dilemma.

Wondering if you, or someone you know, should apply for SSDI? Visit empower by Allsup®.

World Series Step Aside—It’s Time For Medicare Season

2017 October 13

By Tricia of Allsup

You can set your clock by it.

If it’s time for the World Series, it’s also time for Medicare’s annual enrollment period, which runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.

This special window of time—starting Sunday—provides participants with the opportunity to review their 2018 Medicare plan options.

It may not bring the excitement of baseball playoffs, but the costs are pretty high for many seniors and people with disabilities.

Medicare plans change each year, and it can be important to do the homework before choosing your Medicare Advantage or prescription drug Part D plans for next year.

But it doesn’t have to be difficult. The Allsup Medicare Advisor can make many of the complexities of choosing your plan so much easier.

Our Medicare specialists know what they’re talking about. Just read this recent New York Daily News article from Allsup’s Medicare expert, Aaron Tidball, on Part D plans.

We can help you cut through chaos, and find your way through the Medicare maze. Let us make this easy for you—and figure out the plan that fits what you really need, at a price that you can actually afford.

Have questions? Give us a call at (866) 521-7655.

Ready to send us some details and get started? Visit

How to Work the System so the System Helps You Work

2017 October 11

By Tai Prohaska

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries have worked and paid into the program an average 22 years. That’s more than two decades of having a “vocational identity” of being a nurse, a construction worker, housekeeper, or any other of the more than 13,000 professions listed in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.

Vocational identity reflects a stable pattern of interests, goals, abilities, and talents and is the self-view associated with work. That’s why when professional educators are asked what they do, they often respond with, “I am a teacher,” rather than, “I teach.”

So, it’s no surprise that people who cannot continue working due to a disability often grieve the loss of their work life. At Allsup, 56 percent of the applicants we serve indicate they want to go back to work someday. However, very few do.

Most who apply for SSDI are unaware of the support they can receive to return to work.  empower by Allsup® makes sure people know their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as Social Security’s Ticket to Work program at the very beginning of the SSDI application process. This helps them envision a path back to employment.

To make the most of the program, it helps to understand these Ticket to Work basics:

  • Employment Networks (ENs). More than 600 ENs across the U.S. offer a range of free support services through the Ticket program. Click here for more information on returning to work with SSDI.
  • Trial Work Period (TWP). Individuals can keep their SSDI cash benefits while testing their ability to work for nine months. They have a safety net where they can test their ability to work again and receive full SSDI benefits in addition to their job earnings.
  • Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE). After the TWP ends, individuals receive full SSDI benefits for the first three months of this 36-month period in addition to job earnings. After that, they are eligible to receive SSDI benefits for any month job earnings drop below substantial gainful activity (SGA). In 2017, SGA is $1,170 for non-blind individuals and $1,950 for blind individuals.
  • Continuing Medicare Coverage. After the TWP ends, Medicare coverage continues for up to 93 consecutive months. Individuals still receive coverage during this time even if SSDI payments end.
  • Expedited Reinstatement of Benefits. If individuals become unable to work again within five years after the EPE ends, they can request to have their SSDI benefits restarted without filing a new application.
  • Continuing Disability Review (CDR) Protection. Social Security periodically reviews disability claims. As part of the Ticket to Work program, individuals are exempt from medical CDRs and their status remains unchanged.

Disability Employment Awareness Month in October is a good time to share this information with individuals and organizations to help people with disabilities work the system to go back to work.

Creating Disability-Inclusive Workplaces

2017 October 4

By Zach Baldwin, Director of Outreach, American Association of People with Disabilities

The month of October marks National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), meant to celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities and educate employers and the public about the value of a diverse workforce inclusive of the skills and talents of people with disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, aimed to eliminate discrimination and assure equal access to public accommodations, state and local governments, communication, transportation, AND employment for all individuals with disabilities. Yet, today, the labor force participation rate for Americans with disabilities is less than one-third the rate of those without a disability, and the unemployment rate is nearly twice as high for individuals with disabilities. Companies have advanced their diversity strategies, but the ADA goal of economic self-sufficiency remains elusive while improved employment outcomes for people with disabilities remains unchanged 27 years after the passage of the ADA.

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is working to ensure people with disabilities are not denied their fair chance to pursue the American Dream through our programs and initiatives. One such program, the Disability Equality Index (DEI), focuses specifically on disability inclusion in corporate workplaces.

The DEI is a joint initiative of AAPD and the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN). Developed by the DEI Advisory Committee, a diverse group of business leaders, policy experts, and disability advocates, the DEI is a national, transparent benchmarking tool that offers businesses an opportunity to receive an objective score, on a scale of zero to 100, on their disability inclusion policies and practices. It is an aspirational, educational, recognition tool that is intended to help companies identify opportunities for continued improvement and help build a company’s reputation as an employer of choice.

Below are a few highlights from the 2017 DEI:

  • Of the 110 companies participating in 2017, a record 68 employers earned 100 ratings – the highest score possible; this is a substantial increase from 2015 when 19 (out of 80) companies received 100 ratings.
  • The companies that participated in the 2017 DEI represent 21 different business sectors.
  • The corporations taking part in the 2017 DEI have a total U.S. workforce of roughly 7.2 million workers – or 5 percent of all of American workers.
  • The publicly-held corporations taking part in the 2017 DEI account for approximately $6 trillion in market value.
  • The industries with the most corporations participating in the 2017 DEI are: Financial Services (15% of reporting companies); Technology (10% of reporting companies); and Healthcare and Insurance (both accounting for 9%, or a total of 18%, of companies reporting).

Registration for the 2018 DEI opened earlier this month. Interested companies can learn more and register to participate in the survey by visiting

AAPD is a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities. As a national cross-disability rights organization, AAPD advocates for full civil rights for the over 56 million Americans with disabilities by promoting equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation. Learn more at

Triage and the Mass Casualties of Social Security Disability

2017 September 20

By Tai Prohaska

In mass casualty situations, such as natural disasters, triage identifies those who will die without immediate care and those whose injuries are less severe. By tending to the most severely injured first, triage saves more lives.

For the Social Security Administration (SSA), the potential mass casualties are the 1.1 million people stuck in the disability hearing backlog, waiting to learn if they will receive benefits. SSA reports that 8,699 people died while waiting for their hearing in fiscal year 2016.

The Compassionate Allowance (CAL) program is one of SSA’s early triage systems, designed to identify and speed up benefits for individuals with the most severely disabling and life-threatening conditions.

But a recent Government Accountability (GAO) report concluded that many people who qualify for the CAL program may be overlooked when they first apply.

People need help when they apply for disability

Most people are denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) at the application level, and are thrust into a backlog, where they wait through the first appeal level and then an average 596 days for a hearing. The wait is 700 or more days at 20 hearing offices, including Miami (759 days), Philadelphia (737 days) and New York (730 days).

The CAL program includes 228 conditions that qualify for expedited processing, providing disability benefits in a matter of days instead of months or years. However, SSA primarily relies on software that searches for key words in claims to identify applications as eligible for CAL. If claimants include incorrect or misspelled information or don’t describe their condition using just the right words, the software may not flag a CAL condition.  According to the GAO report, SSA frequently has relied on disability advocacy organizations to bring conditions to its attention and may overlook disabling conditions for individuals who have no advocate groups supporting their particular disease.

Get help right away

One way to ensure the right level of triage occurs and allocates resources to those who need it most, is to have help early. Allsup provides a free online screening tool―empower by Allsup®, that immediately helps individuals learn their eligibility and the likelihood of obtaining SSDI benefits, guides them through the application process, identifies eligibility for SSA’s expedited programs such as CAL.

The SSA is working to reduce the backlog. The agency reports that when national hearing wait times reach an average 270 days, they will consider the backlog eliminated. That may be 270 days more than a person with a CAL condition can afford to wait.