SSA Can’t Track Independent Claimant Support Programs
Claim associates that work with state or local government contracts help an estimated one percent of SSDI claimants file their initial claims, according to Congress’s Government Accountability Office (GAO). Advocacy programs are meant to help SSA benefit applicants by improving their quality of life and by reducing the amount of tax dollars spent on state and local benefits programs.
However, LifeHealthPRO recently reported, “The Social Security Administration (SSA) has no good way to track how state and local agencies are using outside Social Security claim associates to help people apply for SSA benefits.” This means that the government has no solid way of identifying or dealing with any potential fraud with advocacy programs.
The Inner Workings of SSA Advocacy Programs
The GAO looked at advocacy programs in three states to get a clearer picture of how they work.
- Hawaii – Hawaii spent $410,957 in 2013 paying for advocates from nonprofit organizations. The advocates at the agencies helped 342 claimants qualify for benefits. The state essentially paid $900 for an approved claim and $1,650 for an appeal.
- Minnesota – Minnesota spent $2 million on advocacy organizations, who wound up helping 1,112 people qualify for benefits. The state paid $1,500 for each initial claimant, $2,500 for homeless people with mental impairments, and $2,500 per appeal.
- Westchester County – Westchester County in New York spent $380,000 on a for-profit advocacy firm that helped 136 people get benefits. The county paid $3,000 for each disability claim.
Whether or not the advocacy programs are really of service or worth the tax dollars spent on them remains unclear. The SSA needs to track the agencies better. The administration is starting to collect info on these agencies and is even considering a proposal in which the SSA will exchange advocate information with giving the advocates direct access to claimants’ electronic files.
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