Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is it safe to file a claim online in 2010?

A Social Security (SS) claims representative says filing claims online is like "tossing blank applications up in the air and hoping for the best."

Page 31 of our 2008 Disability Workbook recommends "Avoid the SSA Internet application procedure for now . . ." We continue to hold this view in 2010.

A union that represents SS claims representatives (CR's) surveyed members about issues to report to Congress. The result published this year include 560 comments. Comments about the SS Internet application process were more often negative than positive.

The question asked of the CR's is:

"Question 26: If you have any comments or concerns about Internet claims or recent policy changes that you would like AFGE to present to Congress, please complete the following."

Perhaps the most negative response on Internet claims said [spelling in original]:

"internet claims are like tossing blank applications up in the air and hoping for the best - they are just a way of keeping claims off the calendar so they don't get a scheduled appointment."

Other negative comments include:

"Many walk-in applicants express extreme frustration with their efforts to file online, including those who are tech-savy, and ask me why they are steered to the Internet to file a complex application w/o assistance."

Another CR said "They will come in and say they have filed by internet, but there will be no application on the system. This is one of the many complaints by the public."

And another " . . . the agency has not been properly funded to insure that technology and staffing can comply with policy. Our technology is simply outdated for the complexity, thus all claims are error prone."

And another "Almost all internet disability claims are incomplete in one way or another and need additional development. This results in major delays in sending the applications to DDS and increased time for a medical decision to be made."

The comments as a whole suggest that there are at least two problems with online application: computer literacy and Social Security literacy. One CR opined:

"As people become more and more comfortable with using internet services, there will be an ever-increasing problem with incorrect payments, disadvantageous choices, missed entitlements and on and on."

The responses were published online by American Federation of Government Employees Local 3272 at:

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