Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Internet Disability Application: Is it "Convenient" and "Time Saving"?

A person applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) typically hasn't done it before. It's a new experience, and just getting organized is a challenge.

Some questions I would ask myself when applying include: what do I need to prove, what kind of information meets Social Security Administration (SSA) requirements, and how do I get answers to questions I can't figure out for myself.

SSA encourages people to use the Internet to make application. If I am offered a choice between applying for benefits with help from a live Social Security representative, or struggling alone through an unfamiliar Internet process when I don't feel good, I readily choose the live person - even if I have to go to an SSA office and wait.

According to SSA, "Applying online for disability benefits offers several advantages:
  • You can start your disability claim immediately. There is no need to wait for an appointment;
  • You can apply from the convenience of your own home or on any computer; and
  • You avoid trips to a Social Security office, saving you time and money."
I wonder whether my home computer really is "convenient" when I don't know anything about the parameters of SSDI, haven’t used the government software before, have to rely on canned electronic instructions, and lack access to a trained person who is responsible for answering my questions correctly? 

Also, I am thinking about something else. SSA estimates that completing the i3368 disability report online takes 1½ hours (compared with 1 hour for the equivalent paper report). 1   That sounds like a long and complicated form.  

A little research showed me that 1 ½ hours may be too conservative an estimate of the time required: a few years ago the agency estimated it could take between 1 ½ and 3 hours to complete the i3368 (compared with 1 hour for the paper form). 2 That’s only one of several forms I must fill out to apply.

To sum up, I want a piece of paper in hand and a living well trained person to help me get it right if I am going to invest 1 ½ to 3 hours in one of several forms. I’ll leave the “convenient and time saving” Internet application process to people who prefer the digital world. What do you think?

1  Federal Register, August 9, 2012, page 47689
2  Federal Register, April 24, 2007, page 20156