Because of America’s two long-term wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, more troops than perhaps ever before are returning with debilitating physical and psychological injuries. In addition to lost limbs and traumatic brain injury, troops are also susceptible to psychological injuries such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Unfortunately, these brave men and women often have another difficult battle to fight when they get home – a bureaucratic one. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been criticized for many years about its significant backlog and the unreasonably long time it takes to process benefits claims. Thankfully, however, the Social Security Administration is implementing a change meant to fast-track disability claims for veterans deemed 100 percent disabled.
For those who might not know, disabled veterans may be eligible for both veterans’ disability benefits and Social Security disability benefits. The recently announced change will only apply to SSD benefits.
When the streamlined process takes effect, veterans with a VA designation of 100 percent disabled will have their SSD applications expedited at nearly every step in the process. This will likely shorten the process by a matter of weeks.
It’s not entirely clear how many veterans will be positively impacted by this change, but VA and SSD statistics can at least paint a general picture. As of 2012, about 10 percent of those receiving VA disability benefits were considered fully disabled. In real numbers, that’s about 360,000 individuals. On the whole, approximately 11 million Americans receive SSD benefits.
Both the VA and the SSA continue to suffer from bureaucratic and organizational problems that can significantly lengthen the claims and appeals processes. Moreover, there are plenty of veterans who may not have a 100-percent disability designation but are nonetheless unable to work as a result of their service-related injuries. Hopefully, these problems will be addressed sooner rather than later.
Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Social Security to expedite veteran disability claims,” Yvonne Wenger John Fritze, Feb. 18, 2014