Wednesday, November 16, 2016

VA Gives SSA Access to Electronic Medical Records

Every year thousands of American servicemen and women apply for social security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits, with the hope of improving the quality of one’s life. Without benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), many Americans would find it extremely difficult to afford their yearly costs.

In order to qualify for such benefits, one must apply which in turn leads to an evaluation process. SSDI processors will sift through millions of medical records each year to determine who qualifies. The process can be time consuming, the SSA has to request copies of patient medical records from various places, and in the meantime applicants have to wait on a decision.

In an effort to streamline the process, both saving time and costs, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) launched a new system, which will allow the two agencies to share medical records electronically, according to a VA press release. Under the Health IT initiative, the SSA will have access to the VA’s VLER Health Exchange under the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) Program.

“VA’s partnership with Social Security will ultimately improve the quality of life for veterans and their dependents by enabling veterans to share their health information within a safe and secure health-related consumer application,” said David Shulkin, VA Health Undersecretary. 

Just to give you an idea of how much time and money the electronic relationship will save, the SSA has to access almost 15 million medical records from various healthcare organizations, the press release reports. Every year the SSA has to process nearly three(3) million disability claims, having direct access to VA medical records could be a game changer for veterans by expediting the evaluation process.

Last Friday was Veterans Day, we at the Driscoll Law Corporation we would like to commend and honor all those who have served in the armed services. The VA’s announcement of the Health IT initiative could not have come at a better time.

Stephanie Merritt Driscoll is an attorney in Southern California who focuses her practice as a Social Security Disability advocate.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Low SSA Benefit Increase

Millions of retired Americans rely heavily on benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). It is not a whole lot of money, but it can prove to be useful for a number of yearly expenses, allowing people to not dip into their retirement savings. Retired Americans are not the only people who receive benefits from SSA, people with a disability (SSDI) and the impoverished (SSI) collect as well.

Unfortunately, there was not an increase in benefits in 2016 compared to 2015. However, in 2017, SSA benefits are going to increase by .3 percent, being the fifth year in a row of low benefit increases, Fortune reports. The insignificant increase is being attributed to low inflation in the United States.

It is important to keep in mind people who receive social security benefits get, on average, $1,238 per month, according to the article. Which means that .3 percent increase amounts to under four additional dollars per month. When you add to this matter the fact that Medicare Part B premiums are expected to increase in 2017, it means that the slight cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will be canceled out by the higher Medicare premium.

“This loss of anticipated retirement income compounds every year, causing people to spend through retirement savings far more quickly than planned,” said Mary Johnson of the Senior Citizens League. “Over the course of a 25- or 30-year retirement, it reduces anticipated Social Security income by tens of thousands of dollars.”

Inflation being low in the U.S. is mainly the result of lower gas prices, the article reports. Over the last year, the price of gasoline has dropped by 18 percent. Naturally, most people smile about paying less at the pump, but not seniors necessarily. A large number of senior citizens do not drive anymore, so they do not reap the benefits of lower prices, yet it affects how much SSA pays out. On top of that, the cost of medical care has risen by more than 5%.

Here you can watch a short video on the 2017 COLA

Stephanie Merritt Driscoll is an attorney in Southern California who focuses her practice as a Social Security Disability advocate.