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Social Security Administration chided for veterans' benefit delays

Georgia veterans who have been holding their breath for a response from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may soon be breathing sighs of relief. Senators Max Baucus and Orrin Hatch recently addressed the backlog of outstanding veterans' disability claims by calling for improved communication between the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the VA.

In a letter to the SSA, Senators Baucus and Hatch expressed their frustrations with the administration. The letter lauded veterans' service for their country and expressed resolve to care for veterans' injuries in a timely manner. Holding the SSA accountable, the senators requested specific actions the administration is taking to assist America's veterans.

The outcry arose from a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, which found the VA routinely encounters problems obtaining medical records from the SSA. Laws mandate these records be obtained in order to help veterans' claims. In one poignant example of delay, the SSA took more than a year before transferring medical records to the VA. When making medical records requests, the VA typically does not have a contact person at the SSA and may only wait for information to be provided.

The SSA has already begun steps to address issues highlighted by the GAO, which was acknowledged by Senators Baucus and Hatch. The accumulation of veterans' unfulfilled claims overshadows tentative steps toward progress. The report found the average claim process to last more than five months in 2011. In its recommendations for improvement, the GAO report suggests standardizing claims language and developing teams focused on handling complex claims. Finally, it advocates a paperless claims system.

Source: United States Committee on Finance, "Baucus, Hatch Call on Social Security Administration to Expedite Assistance to Veterans," Jan. 29, 2013

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