The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced on Feb. 19 that they would start expediting claims for fully disabled veterans. Chicago attorney Howard Ankin says the decision is long overdue. “Our brave service members have given a great deal to our country. We have an obligation to help them when they return home,” Ankin said.
The SSA has been dealing with a backlog of disability claims for several years. There are currently nearly 11 million people who receive Social Security benefits. That’s up from just over seven million ten years ago.
The new process means that veterans who have already been declared fully disabled will move into a high priority group that will receive expedited service. It previously took up to a year for a fully disabled veteran to begin receiving benefits and that’s assuming he or she was declared disabled immediately. In many cases, the Department of Veterans Affairs can take up to three months to make a ruling. If the veteran disagrees with the VA’s disability ruling, the appeal could take up to another year.
That lengthy process can be costly for veterans who are unable to find work due to physical or mental issues. One soldier recently that he suffers from anxiety, post traumatic stress, and flashbacks related to his work dealing with dead soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan. He said that those conditions made it impossible for him to return to work as police officer. He is currently waiting out an appeal on his disability ruling.
Mr. Ankin, of Chicago law firm The Ankin Law, says expedited service is needed to help disabled veterans assimilate back into domestic life. He added that the personal injuries suffered by many veterans can have long-lasting and debilitating effects that make many types of work impossible. He’s hopeful that the SSA will implement the expedited service quickly so that disabled veterans don’t have to suffer any more than they already have.