VA and Social Security Partner to Speed Up Disability Decisions for Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) launched a new Health IT initiative that enables VA to share medical records electronically with social security disabilty processors. This secure process will save time and money resulting in better service for Veterans and dependents who apply for social security disability benefits. The SSA requests nearly 15 million medical records from health care organizations yearly to make medical decisions on about three million disability claims. For decades, SSA obtained medical records through a manual process. This new national initiative puts in place an automated process to obtain Veterans’ medical records entirely electronically.

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Happy Thanksgiving

November 23, 2016

I always like to take a moment to express thanks to the many people I encounter in my work:

  • my clients, who entrust their claims to me;
  • physicians, who are so helpful to my clients and willing to provide information to SSA;
  • the staff at the District Office, who are always helpful with my questions
  • the staff at the hearing office, who all work hard to make sure the files are ready for hearing; and
  • my colleagues who are so generous with their time and advice.

I hope that everyone has a good holiday and takes time to think about the things for which they are thankful, even in the midst of a disability claim.

This is kind of a fun article:

In October 2016, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham walked into Albuquerque’s Social Security Office, just like anyone else who needs help – but she said she didn’t receive a warm welcome and after an hour, was escorted from the building by federal officers.

“It is the worst behavior of its kind that I’ve personally witnessed in this job,” Lujan-Grisham said.

The democratic representative was accompanying a 90-year-old woman to an appointment.

She wanted to stay incognito – to see first-hand how the office is handling requests. In the past, Lujan-Grisham has criticized the local Social Security Administration for not offering a drop-off zone at its new downtown location.

After an hour wait with the elderly woman, she said they got help but then got an alarming surprise.

“Two armed officers show up, tap me,” Lujan-Grisham said during an interview with KOAT-TV Friday. “They challenge me about my access, they challenge me about my right to be there.”

She said she told them like any citizen, she has a right to be there because it’s a public building, but they persisted.

“They ask me to leave where I am,” Lujan-Grisham said. “They want to escort me and have a conversation with me.”

After a few more minutes, Lujan-Grisham said the officers booted her from the building.

“It was purposeful, it was deliberate,” Lujan-Grisham said.

She’s spent the last day trying to get an explanation from the Social Security Administration and from Federal Protective Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, with no luck.

No one from either agency returned phone calls and emails KOAT either on Friday.

Lujan-Grisham took to Twitter after the incident and blasted the departments.

“If they treat me that way, imagine the culture and environment of how they are treating every single beneficiary,” Lujan-Grisham said.

She’s promising that her fight is far from over. Lujan-Grisham said she’s working on formal complaints to file against the offices and also wants a full investigation into the incident from the Office of the Inspector General completed.

The Social Security Administration now has podcasts!   A podcast is an audio (e.g. mp3) or video file (e.g. mpeg) that can be played on a mobile media player or personal computer.  You can subscribe to the podcasts or you can listen to individual podcasts by selecting the play button next to the episode you’re interested in.  When you subscribe to the podcasts, each episode will automatically download to your computer as soon as they become available.

Topics include:

  • Your Social Security Number and Card;
  • How Social Security Can Help You When a Family Member Dies; and
  • What You Can Do Online.

Go here for more information:  https://www.ssa.gov/multimedia/podcasts/

The Social Security Administration Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) issued the CARES plan earlier this year, which outlined 21 initiatives to address the growing number of pending hearings and increasing wait times. According to the CARES plan, ODAR’s goal is to reach an average processing time (APT) of 270 days by the end of Fiscal Year 2020. ODAR also expects the plan will help serve as a foundation to explore potential future initiatives as the Agency continues identifying ways to better serve the public.

In Jacksonville, average processing times are closer to double that time frame.  I am hopeful that the initiatives will help reduce the wait times for decisions, as many disabled individuals in my area – and across the country – are struggling with an inability to work and the financial and emotional stress that fact brings.

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