White Plains, NY (Law Firm Newswire) April 30, 2014 — The process of applying for Social Security disability benefits is to be expedited for some veterans.
Under a new initiative, veterans who have a 100 percent Permanent and Total disability compensation rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will be able to apply for Social Security disability benefits on an expedited basis. Social Security is to handle these claims on a high-priority basis, similar to the way claims from service members wounded in combat are processed.
Carolyn Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA), said that the agency worked with the VA to identify veterans with disabilities who were also most likely to meet Social Security’s definition of disability.
Veterans who wish to take advantage of the expedited processing of their claim must submit their VA Notification Letter showing their 100 percent Permanent and Total disability compensation rating to Social Security. The new initiative began March 17 and only expedites processing; it does not guarantee that a veteran’s application for disability benefits may be approved. Both the VA and SSA pay disability benefits, but they use different criteria to determine disability, and they have different processes and programs.
In general terms, the SSA considers an individual to be disabled if the person has a severe disability that has lasted or is expected to last for a year or more, and the person is not able to perform previous work and is not able to adjust to other work, due to the disability.
The SSA estimates that tens of thousands of veterans could be eligible for the expedited service over time. In 2012, about 360,000 veterans receiving VA disability benefits were classified as fully disabled. However, many of those veterans may already be receiving Social Security benefits.
Almost 11 million people receive Social Security disability benefits. The initial processing of a claim takes about three months, and many claimants wait over a year for an appeal to be heard.
Under the expedited processing system, the SSA would still need to interview the claimant and obtain medical records, but the process is expected to be much shorter. Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland, who pushed for the change, said that expedited decisions could be made in a matter of days, rather than months.
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