The Social Security Administration closed the offices that handle Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) matters March 17, in response to the COVID-19 emergency.
SSDI is famous for having an enormous backlog of cases. Simply getting an initial claim reviewed can take six months, and appealing a rejection can take 500 days or longer, according to Steve Perrigo, a vice president at Allsup.
COVID-19 itself may end up causing disability, by hurting people’s lungs, kidneys and other organs.
But Perrigo said in an interview that, so far, the SSA team members, who are now working through telework systems, seem to be maintaining a comparable level of service to what they were offering before.
Allsup helps people get through the SSDI claim determination process.
Many group disability insurance providers save money by using a benefits formula that subtracts SSDI benefits payment amounts from the plan’s own benefit payment amounts.
The disability insurers that apply the SSDI benefits offsets often hires companies like Allsup to help with the SSDI claim process, to minimize the amount of benefits the group disability plan has to pay.
Allsup says it’s helped about 300,000 customers get SSDI.
Eventually, the SSDI team’s shift to telework status will probably slow claim processing times, Perrigo said.
But Allsup already has an online SSDI application tool, and it has already been conducting many claim-related activities over the telephone, Perrigo said.
At the SSA, “they’re clearly prioritizing the cases with the most severe disabilities,” Perrigo said.
SSA typically handles many of those kinds of cases using streamlined “compassionate allowances” rules,” and processing for those cases now seems to be going about as smoothly as it was in January and February, Perrigo said.
At this point, Perrigo said, he has not seen COVID-19-related SSDI claims and is not sure what the long-term impact of the disease will be.
“There’s a learning curve,” Perrigo said.
But Perrigo said providing strong support for COVID-19 survivors who do file SSDI claims will be important, because workers approved for SSDI can eventually enroll in Medicare, and people with serious disabilities resulting from COVID-19 could find having Medicare coverage helpful.
— Read Jim Allsup Publishes Guide to the SSDI Claim Determination Maze, on ThinkAdvisor.