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Allsup says Social Security office closures presenting challenge to clients

The Social Security Administration says there is no timeline for reopening its more than 1,200 field offices, which highlights ongoing obstacles for people with disabilities who need to access their Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, according to Belleville-based Allsup, which provides nationwide SSDI representation and veterans disability appeals services.

Field offices and 160 hearing offices have remained closed since March 2020, and repercussions are significant. Lack of in-person help has inundated the agency with 7.5 million phone calls per month on average, up from 4.6 million calls per month on average. Video hearings with judges also have been problematic due to technology and other issues.

“Applying for SSDI has always been challenging, especially when going it alone and without experience in navigating this complex program,” said T.J. Geist, principal advocate for Allsup. “Office closures make the process especially intimidating and many give up on obtaining benefits they deserve. For example, SSA data show a nearly 15 percent drop in SSDI applications for 2021 [through November] compared with 2019, the year before COVID-19 pandemic began.”

“Many former workers with disabilities often don’t realize they can get help at any point of the SSDI process – including their initial application – without having to visit a field office or waiting on hold in an overwhelmed phone system,” he added. “Allsup does all the heavy lifting for them, confirming eligibility, completing forms, collecting medical evidence and communicating with the SSA for them.”

Geist has managed thousands of SSDI claims, for individuals with serious disabilities, in his 18-year career with Allsup.

Allsup said its team of SSDI experts, which include many former Social Security professionals, have helped more than 350,000 people to receive SSDI benefits, which include monthly income, Medicare coverage, Social Security retirement protection and free return-to-work assistance.

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