Paralyzed Veterans of America applauds a new initiative by the Social Security Administration that will fast track disability benefits for veterans.
Social Security on February 19, 2014, unveiled a new process for expediting disability claims by veterans with a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation rating of 100 percent Permanent and Total. Applications from qualifying veterans will be flagged as high priority, which in most cases should result in expedited decisions.
The new process, which will launch in mid-March 2014, is the result of a collaboration between Social Security and the VA to identify veterans with disabilities who have a high probability of meeting Social Security’s definition of disability.
“I'm pleased with the decision to expedite veterans' disability claims in the Social Security system,” said Sherman Gillums, Jr., associate executive director of veterans benefits at Paralyzed Veterans of America. “These men and women have already endured the wait for their VA benefits and should not have to navigate through another lengthy bureaucratic process to get their earned entitlements. This is a good first step.”
The changes are based on legislation authored and introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md. Sarbanes proposed the legislation after a veteran constituent contacted him for help with his application for Social Security benefits. While the veteran has received a 100 percent disability rating from the VA, he had been waiting for years to be approved for Social Security disability benefits.
“No one wants to put America’s veterans through a bureaucratic runaround,” Sarbanes said in a statement. “As the baby boomer generation ages and more veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan need care, this common sense change will help reduce backlogs and cut through unnecessary red tape so that our most disabled veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned.”
In order to receive the expedited service, veterans must tell Social Security they have a VA disability compensation rating of 100 percent P&T and show proof of their disability rating with their VA Notification Letter.
Still, Gillums expressed concern about the different standards used by the VA and Social Security to determine a veteran’s level of disability. “A veteran rated 100 percent disabled by VA may still have to fight for the same rating at SSA to get benefits,” Gillums said. “But at least now he won't have to wait months for the initial decision.”
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Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.