The Social Security Administration will immediately begin fast-tracking paperwork for veterans who are rated 100 percent disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Under the new process, Social Security will treat these veterans' applications as high priority and issue expedited decisions just as it does for disability claims filed by troops who become disabled for any reason while on active duty.
"We have reached another milestone for those who have sacrificed so much for our country and this process ensures they will get the benefits they need quickly,"Carolyn W. Colvin, acting Social Security commissioner, said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon by the White House.
The decision by Social Security does not affect the disability claims backlog that the VA has been dealing with for years. Rather, it is for veterans who are applying for SSA benefits in addition to the disability compensation awarded by VA.
SSA's move came as a welcome surprise, said Joe Davis, national spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
"It recognizes seriously disabled veterans as deserving of expedited claims processing," Davis said.
Colvin said expediting Social Security disability claims processing for the veterans does not guarantee approval for Social Security benefits. The vets must still meet the eligibility requirements.
Also, it will be up to the veteran, not the VA, to inform Social Security that they qualify for the expedited processing. Veterans will have to inform Social Security that they have permanent and total VA disability rating of 100 percent. Along with that notification they must also include proof of the rating, Colbert said.
"While we can never fully repay them for their sacrifices, we can be sure we provide them with the quality of service that they deserve," Colvin said.
Though expediting veterans' Social Security paperwork does not have an effect on the VA's backlog, it will help keep those vets with 100 percent VA disabilities from falling behind an increasingly long line of SSA applicants, according to Rep. John Sarbanes, XXXX-Md., who serves on the House Subcommittee on Health.
"As the baby boomer generation ages and more veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan need care, this common sense change will help reduce backlogs and cut through unnecessary red tape so that our most disabled veterans receive the benefits they've earned," he said in the White House-released statement.
More information on expediting an application for Social Security benefits is available here.