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Social Security Online
Social Security Update
August 2009
In This Issue:

$24 Million Health IT Funding to Improve Disability Process

More People Eligible for Extra Help

Apply in September for Retirement Benefits in January

Everyone’s Entitled to a Statement

Two More Years of SSI for Some Noncitizens

A Web Page Just for Representatives

 

$24 Million Health IT Funding to Improve Disability Process

recovery.gov logoMichael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, announced the availability of $24 million in contracts to provide the agency with electronic medical records to improve the service provided to applicants for disability benefits.  Through a Request for Proposals available on www.fedbizopps.gov, Social Security is looking for health care providers, provider networks, and health information exchanges to participate in its Medical Evidence Gathering and Analysis through the Health Information Technology (IT) program.

“This technology will greatly improve the speed and consistency of our disability decisions, allowing us to obtain medical evidence in a matter of minutes versus days or weeks,” Commissioner Astrue said.

The contract opportunities are funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Social Security expects to receive more than 3.3 million disability applications next year.  To process them, the agency sends more than 15 million requests for medical records to health care providers.  Use of health IT will greatly improve the process which is currently largely paper-bound.

Learn more by reading the press release at www.socialsecurity.gov/pressoffice/pr/electronic-med-records-pr.htm.

More information on Social Security’s use of health IT is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/hit.

 

More People Eligible for Extra Help

For people with limited income and resources, there is Extra Help available under the Medicare program to help cover the costs of prescription drugs. Social Security needs your help in spreading the word about some changes in the law beginning January 1, 2010 that could make more people eligible for this Extra Help. The changes were part of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act.

The two most significant changes are:

  • we will no longer count as a resource any life insurance policy, and

  • we will no longer count as income assistance received regularly from someone else for household expenses such as food, mortgage, rent, heating fuel or gas, electricity, water, and property taxes.
There are some other changes as well.  Learn more by reading our new electronic fact sheet, Changes in the Law Could Make More People Eligible for Extra Help in 2010, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10040.html.

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Apply in September for Retirement Benefits in January

Apply in September for Retirement Benefits in JanuaryIf you plan to start the new year off as a retiree, or you have a client in that situation, September is the time to apply for benefits.  And the most convenient way to apply for Social Security benefits is online, at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline

Filing online means there is no need to visit a Social Security office and wait in line or call and wait for a scheduled appointment. 

Applying online can take as little as 15 minutes from the comfort of your home or office. There are no papers to sign, and usually no additional documents are needed.  It’s so easy at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline
 

Everyone’s Entitled to a Statement

Social Security StatementMost people age 25 or older who work and pay Social Security taxes receive an automatic Social Security Statement each year — a valuable tool to help with financial planning and to keep track of annual earnings, making sure they are recorded properly.

But people who do not file a tax return because they are not working or their earnings from work don’t meet the threshold for filing a federal tax return will not receive an automated Social Security Statement. If you know someone who is not automatically getting a Social Security Statement in the mail, tell them to request one by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement and selecting the “Need to request a Statement?” banner.

Once a request is made, Social Security will mail a Statement within two to four weeks.  Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement.

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Two More Years of SSI for Some Noncitizens

Two More Years of SSI for Some NoncitizensThe Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Extension for Elderly and Disabled Refugees Act increases the time-limited SSI eligibility period from seven to nine years for certain noncitizens, such as refugees, asylees, and other humanitarian immigrants as long as there is a naturalization application pending, or the immigrant is under age 18.

Social Security has been working with a coalition of immigration and disability advocates, as well as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to identify individuals who may be affected by this change in law, and to properly apply the extended benefits. 

If you would like to help us reach those individuals who may be eligible for extended benefits, you can find detailed information about the law at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/legis_bulletin_100108.htm.

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A Web Page Just for Representatives

A Web Page Just for RepresentativesAre you a representative for a Social Security or SSI applicant?  Or thinking about representing someone who is applying for benefits?  If so, we have a web page that was designed just for you.  Our Representing Claimants page is stocked full of information on everything you need to know:  how to be appointed as a representative, when you can and cannot charge fees, and federal regulations on representation.  You’ll even find a model fee agreement, standards of conduct for representatives, fee petitions, and an overview of representatives’ fees.  If you’re looking for the latest information, you’ll find the most recent news updates top and center of the page.  It’s all conveniently located at one place -- www.socialsecurity.gov/representation.

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