Social Security and VA speed up vets’ disability cases

The Social Security Administration has launched a new Health IT initiative with the U.S.; Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that enables all Social Security disability-case processing sites to receive medical records electronically from all VA facilities. 

Veterans will receive a faster decision on their Social Security disability claim, 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 new Health IT program was tested successfully at Social Security locations around the country. On Veterans Day last November, the eHealth Exchange went live, nationally.

Social Security requests nearly 15 million medical records annually from healthcare providers and organizations to make medical decisions on about three million disability claims. Medical documentation is essential to make a disability determination.  Historically, the agency obtained medical records through a manual process (mail, fax, etc.). This new national initiative puts in place an automated process to obtain medical records electronically without human intervention.

“VA is currently improving quality of life by enabling veterans to share their health information with federal partners and integrating their data into a safe and secure health-related consumer application,” said Dr. David Shulkin, VA undersecretary for health. “Currently, when eligible Veterans apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, the average wait time for Social Security to receive paper records from VA can take months. This (new) partnership allows Social Security and VA to share the veterans’ health information electronically in minutes.”

The partnership adds the VA to Social Security’s more than 50 other Health IT partners, including the Department of Defense, in approximately 7,000 facilities across the United States providing electronic health records.  Social Security’s goal is to continue expanding the number of healthcare organizations and federal agencies providing electronic health records within a safe and secure environment.

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Social Security offers two other programs to expedite disability claims filed by veterans. Wounded Warriors and veterans with a VA disability compensation rating of 100 percent Permanent and Total have their Social Security disability claims treated as high-priority and receive expedited decisions.


Kirk Larson, who wrote this article, is a public affairs specialist for Social Security in western Washington.