HomeFacts and FiguresPublications Data3rd Party Report

Filing for Social Security Disability Benefits: What Impact Does Professional Representation Have on the Process at the Initial Application Level? (September 2012)


I. Third Party Report


Contents:
Chart 1: Total Fees Paid to Claimant Representatives, by Program and Fee Type (CY 2007-2010)
Chart 2: Percentage of Claims Represented at the Initial Level, by Program Type (FY 2009-2011)
Chart 3: Percentage Distribution of Initial SSDI and SSI Claims, by Type of Representation (FY 2011)
Chart 4a: Initial Level SSDI Processing Times, by Type of Representation (2009-2011)
Chart 4b: Initial Level SSI Processing Times, by Type of Representation (2009-2011)
Chart 5: Initial Level Allowance Rates: Represented Claims vs. All Claims (CY 2007-2010)

 
Charts

Chart 1 (Figure 1): Total Fees Paid to Claimant Representatives, by Program and Fee Type (CY 2007-2010)


 
 Download Chart 1 Data (Excel)

All fees paid by SSA to claimant representatives increased by 48 percent between 2007 and 2010 with SSA paying out $1.74 billion in fees by 2010. Fees paid out for SSDI cases through the fee agreement process represented the largest portion of the total fees paid. Reaching $1.39 billion in 2010, they increased by 45 percent from 2007 to 2010. Although total SSI fees paid through the fee agreement process have been low relative to SSDI fees in the same category, they saw a much more dramatic increase of 75 percent from 2007 to 2010, with a total of $280 million paid in 2010 (Note: Most attorney fees are paid via fee agreements; the amount paid by fee petition remained relatively low and stable for both disability programs throughout the period).


Chart 2 (Figure 4): Percentage of Claims Represented at the Initial Level, by Program Type (FY 2009-2011)


 Download Chart 2 Data (Excel)

For SSI and SSDI in fiscal years 2009-2011, while the number of represented initial claims for both programs is increasing, represented SSDI claims have increased more rapidly; between 2009 and 2011 alone there was an increase of 4.5 percentage points. Factors that could contribute to future trends in represented cases include the increase in the number of disability claims filed, marketing efforts by representatives, and any statutory or regulatory changes to the governance of representatives that could encourage or discourage representation of SSDI/ SSI claimants.



Chart 3 (Figure 5): Percentage Distribution of Initial SSDI and SSI Claims, by Type of Representation (FY 2011)

Download Chart 3 Data (Excel)

In 2011, of the 14 percent of SSDI claims that were represented at the initial level, attorney representation accounted for nine percent of the cases, while non-attorney representation was involved in about five percent of the cases. Of the roughly five percent of SSI claims that were represented at the initial level, less than one percent were represented by attorneys while a little over three percent were represented by non-attorneys. A substantial majority of claimants applying for SSDI and SSI benefits, however, did not have any type if representation at the initial level of adjudication.

 

Chart 4a (Figure 6a): Initial Level SSDI Processing Times, by Type of Representation (2009-2011)

 Download Chart 4a Data (Excel)

 

Chart 4b (Figure 6b): Initial Level SSI Processing Times, by Type of Representation (2009-2011)


 Download Chart 4b Data (Excel)

For both SSDI and SSI, the initial level processing times are lowest for claims that are not represented. Further, while any type of representation increases processing times, attorney representation results in the highest overall processing times. The difference in processing times between attorney representation and no third party representation is on average around 25 days (approximately a 23 percent difference) for the years of 2009-2011; this is true for both the SSDI and SSI programs.

 

Chart 5 (Figure 7): Initial Level Allowance Rates: Represented Claims vs. All Claims (CY 2007-2010) 

 Download Chart 5 Data (Excel)

From 2007 to 2010, overall initial allowance rates were typically in the 36 to 37 percent range for SSDI and 32 to 34 percent range for SSI respectively. The SSDI allowance rate for represented claims was only slightly higher, typically ranging from 37 to 41 percent, but the SSI allowance rate for represented claims was significantly higher- ranging from 60 to 64 percent, almost double the overall allowance rate.