The Social Security Administration (SSA) has no good way to track how state and local agencies are using outside Social Security claim advocates to help people apply for SSA benefits.
Investigators at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), an arm of Congress, present that conclusion in a look at what it found when it studied state and local SSA claimant support programs. Some help people file for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits — benefits that go to very poor people who do not qualify for work-based Social Security benefits — and for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
Private disability insurers like to see qualified workers qualify for SSDI benefits quickly, because they may use information about SSDI determinations in their own claim review efforts, and they often subtract part or all of any SSDI benefits payments from the amounts they pay.
Some state and local governments help SSDI benefits applicants, both to improve those applicants’ quality of life and, in some cases, to reduce the amounts spent on state and local benefits programs.
The GAO investigators estimate that claim advocates with state or local government contracts might help about 1 percent of the people who file initial SSDI claims, Daniel Bertoni, a GAO director, writes in a report summarizing the investigators’ findings.
SSA is starting to collect registration information on the claimant advocates, but it is still working on efforts to integrate that information with systems it could use to look for evidence of fraud or other problems, Bertoni says.