At the end of February 2014, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced plans to streamline the claims process for veterans who have received a 100 percent disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The change, which will go into effect in mid-March, will place these veterans into a high-priority group that receives expedited service. At present, even veterans deemed fully disabled can wait months to obtain their benefits from the SSA, so the announcement comes as welcome news for servicemen and women across the country. Over time, the agency expects that tens of thousands of veterans will benefit from this expedited process.
Veterans’ services advocates have applauded both the SSA’s decision to ease the process for fully disabled veterans and its existing policy to expedite services for active-duty troops wounded in combat. However, they also point out that hundreds of thousands of partially disabled veterans are still forced to wait excruciatingly long periods for their benefits to be processed. Across the country, some veterans have had to wait years for the Department of Veterans Affairs to review their claims, make a decision on disability, and then pass their applications on to the SSA for further review. Once the SSA receives a disability claim, it takes an average of three months for it to make an initial determination and approximately a year to complete an appeal.