New VA and Social Security Partnership Promises Faster Disability Decisions for Vets

Earlier this month, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced a new system that electronically links VA facilities with all Social Security disability case processing sites.   What this will mean for disabled veterans is that SSA is now able to receive their medical records electronically and, according to a SSA press release, “veterans will receive faster decision(s) on their Social Security disability claim(s), speeding them and their dependents through this new process. Both agencies will save time and money with an automatic request through the eHealth Exchange.”

The system was tested successfully at Social Security locations around the country in early November.    On Veteran’s Day, November 11, the eHealth Exchange went live, nationally, to all Social Security disability case processing sites. This newest initiative is part of the government’s Health IT program. Health IT is shorthand for “health information technology,” a broad concept that encompasses the use of computer hardware and software and related technologies to record, store, protect, and retrieve clinical, administrative, and financial information.    “(Previously) when eligible veterans (applied) for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits the average wait time for Social Security to receive paper records from VA (could) take months; this partnership allows Social Security and VA to share the Veteran’s health information electronically in minutes,” said Dr. David Shulkin, Under Secretary for Health of the Department of Veterans Affairs. “Historically”, the agency says, “(SSA) obtained medical records through a manual process—mail, fax, secure mail. This new national initiative puts in place an automated process to obtain medical records electronically without human intervention.”

The press release went on to say: “President Obama has said, ‘we must maintain the sacred covenant we share with our veterans by ensuring they have the care and benefits they deserve,’ and I could not agree more,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “We are committed to providing our veterans with the world class service they so richly deserve and improving the speed and efficiency of our disability program.”

“Social Security (also) offers two other programs to expedite disability claims filed by veterans”, the SSA reports. “Wounded Warriors and veterans with a VA disability compensation rating of 100% Permanent & Total have their Social Security disability claims treated as high priority and receive expedited decisions.” 

Many disabled veterans are unaware that they may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits and veterans’ disability benefits at the same time, but this only happens under certain circumstances. The two systems—VA and SSA—are very different in how they assess disability and award benefits.    It is important to remember, that the rules governing both VA disability and Social Security disability are complex and confusing. Winning the disability benefits you have earned can be difficult. If you are looking for help, call Cuddigan Law today to discuss your unique situation.

Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska
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