In today’s divisive political scene, there doesn’t seem to be much agreement from opposite sides of halls of Congress. One thing that most representatives of both political parties can agree on, however, is that we need to speed up the disability process for disabled veterans and service members.
The process of applying for Social Security disability benefits typically takes a minimum of three to six months. That’s assuming that the claim is approved on its first time through. Unfortunately, most disability claims are initially denied (especially if they are filed without the help of a lawyer who is familiar with the SSA and the disability claims process). Claims which go into the appeals process often take a year or longer before they are approved (if they are approved).
Currently, the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) are in the process of exploring means of speeding up the process of applying for Social Security disability benefits such as SSDI and SSI for disabled veterans and service members. There are several improvements that are either being implemented or are in the works.
One of the most significant changes is the streamlining of the way service members’ health records are handled. The Department of Defense is working towards implementing a system by which all of a former service member’s medical records can be stored electronically in one location.
This streamlines the process by allowing the SSA (or the veteran) to request all of the medical records from one place, shaving the time spent gathering records considerably. What used to take in excess of five weeks can now be done in three business days.
Having these records readily available helps the SSA to render a decision faster. Not only do they spend less time gathering the records themselves, but they are also less likely to need to put the veteran through redundant consultative examinations.
Veterans who became disabled as a direct result of their military service are also entitled to benefits from the Department of Defense. These are in addition to benefits from the SSA. It’s important to note that qualifying for one does not automatically qualify a service member for the other, as each has its own criteria.
Social Security disability is only available to those who are deemed completely disabled. This means that in order to qualify, you must be able to show that your disability makes it unreasonable for you to be expected to perform any kind of work that’s available anywhere in the country for which you could reasonably be trained or have previous experience. A service member may very well be disabled to the point he cannot continue to serve in the armed forces without being considered completely disabled by the SSA.
If you are a disabled veteran, and your disability was caused during your time of service, especially if it was the direct result of your service, you should apply for both types of disability. When applying for SSD, it’s in your best interests to have a Social Security attorney go over your claim with you first.