Social Security and Veterans Affairs Partnership Means Faster Disability Decisions for Veterans
Today, the Social Security Administration announces the launch of a new Health IT initiative with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that enables all Social Security disability case processing sites to receive medical records electronically from all VA facilities. Veterans will receive a faster decision on their Social Security disability claim, speeding them and their dependents through this new process. Both agencies will save time and money with an automatic request through the eHealth Exchange.
“President Obama has said, ‘we must maintain the sacred covenant we share with our veterans by ensuring they have the care and benefits they deserve,' and I could not agree more,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “We are committed to providing our veterans with the world class service they so richly deserve and improving the speed and efficiency of our disability program.”
The new Health IT program was tested successfully at Social Security locations around the country. On Veteran's Day, November 11, the eHealth Exchange will go live, nationally, to all Social Security disability case processing sites.
Social Security requests nearly 15 million medical records annually from healthcare providers and organizations to make medical decisions on about three million disability claims. Medical documentation is essential to make a disability determination. Historically, the agency obtained medical records through a manual process (mail, fax, secure mail). This new national initiative puts in place an automated process to obtain medical records electronically without human intervention.
“VA is currently improving quality of life by enabling Veterans to share their health information with federal partners and integrating their data into a safe and secure health-related consumer application,” said Dr. David Shulkin, Under Secretary for Health of the Department of Veterans Affairs. “Currently, when eligible Veterans apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits the average wait time for Social Security to receive paper records from VA can take months; this partnership allows Social Security and VA to share the Veteran's health information electronically in minutes. The Social Security and VA partnership allows VA to continue to be a leader in interoperability efforts among federal partners while improving overall quality of life for our Veteran patients.”
This partnership adds the VA to Social Security's more than 50 other Health IT partners, including the Department of Defense, in approximately 7,000 facilities across the United States providing electronic health records. Social Security's goal is to continue expanding the number of healthcare organizations and federal agencies providing electronic health records within a safe and secure environment.
To learn more about Health IT, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/hit.
Social Security offers two other programs to expedite disability claims filed by veterans. Wounded Warriors and veterans with a VA disability compensation rating of 100% Permanent & Total have their Social Security disability claims treated as high priority and receive expedited decisions. For more information about these programs, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/people/veterans.
To get more Social Security news, follow the Press Office on Twitter @SSAPress.
Social Security Announces 0.3 Percent Benefit Increase for 2017
Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 65 million Americans will increase 0.3 percent in 2017, the Social Security Administration announced today.
The 0.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 60 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2017. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2016. The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $127,200 from $118,500. Of the estimated 173 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2017, about 12 million will pay more because of the increase in the taxable maximum.
Information about Medicare changes for 2017, when announced, will be available at www.Medicare.gov. For some beneficiaries, their Social Security increase may be partially or completely offset by increases in Medicare premiums.
The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.
NOTE TO CORRESPONDENTS: Attached is a fact sheet showing the effect of the various automatic adjustments.
To get more Social Security news, follow the Press Office on Twitter @SSAPress.
Social Security Publishes Final Rule to Revise Medical Criteria for Evaluating Mental Disorders
On Monday, the Social Security Administration will publish final rules, effective January 17, 2017, that revise medical criteria for evaluating mental disorders. This regulation is a comprehensive revision to the criteria for evaluating disability claims involving mental disorders.
"Updating our medical criteria for the disability program is a challenging task that has been complicated by deep budgetary cuts in recent years," said Carolyn W. Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security. "We are committed to updating our regulations to reflect up-to-date standards and practices used in the health care community."
The final rule is the last step in a careful, deliberative process that engaged relevant stakeholders, including current disability beneficiaries and their family members, mental-health physicians and treatment providers, and advocacy groups for those with mental disorders. It also reflects information from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth edition, the mental health profession's current standard classification of mental disorders. In addition to reflecting comments from members of the public, the rule also reflects an intellectual disability report we commissioned from the National Academy of Sciences, and the expertise of disability policy experts, adjudicators, psychiatric professionals, and vocational experts who provided input at every phase of the rulemaking process.
The publication of this final rule is an important cornerstone of our effort to secure today and tomorrow for members of the public with mental illness who are some of our most vulnerable beneficiaries.
You can learn more about the revised criteria at https://www.ssa.gov/regulations/recentregulatory.html.
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Social Security Checks Arriving Early for Those Anticipating High Intensity Storms
Carolyn W. Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, today announced that benefit checks are being delivered to some residents on Thursday, September 1
st, before the arrivals of Tropical Storm Hermine, Hurricane Lester, Hurricane Madeline, and Tropical Depression Eight and ahead of the regular September 3
rd payment date. About 12,750 beneficiaries in Hawaii, Florida, and North Carolina are affected by this early check delivery.
“As families gather supplies and prepare for the storms, getting their checks delivered early eliminates one concern many beneficiaries have,” Acting Commissioner Colvin said. “Our beneficiaries rely on these checks to purchase the items they need to get through the storms or for transportation costs of evacuating to safer locations. We want to remind all of our beneficiaries that we offer direct deposit as a more secure and convenient option of receiving their benefits, especially when natural disasters strike.”
Social Security worked closely with the U.S. Postal Service and the Department of the Treasury to make the early delivery of checks possible. The Department of the Treasury, through the Federal Reserve, has requested that the financial institutions in the affected areas honor the paper checks.
Beneficiaries living in the following counties will receive early delivery.
|| Beneficiaries Affected
||Citrus, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Manatee
||Brunswick, Carteret, Currituck, Dare, Hyde, Onslow, New Hanover and Pender
To start or change direct deposit, manage benefits, and so much more visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount and create a
Social Security account.
Social Security is a secure, convenient option for people to do business with Social Security anywhere and anytime.
To find information about Social Security office closures visit our Office Closings and Emergencies website at www.socialsecurity.gov/agency/emergency/.
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Social Security Board of Trustees: Long-Range Projection Unchanged for Trust Fund Reserve Depletion
Disability Fund Improves in Near Term
The Social Security Board of Trustees today released its annual report on the long-term financial status of the Social Security Trust Funds. The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2034, the same as projected last year, with 79 percent of benefits payable at that time. The DI Trust Fund will become depleted in 2023, extended from last year’s estimate of 2016, with 89 percent of benefits still payable.
In the 2016 Annual Report to Congress, the Trustees announced:
- The asset reserves of the combined OASDI Trust Funds increased by $23 billion in 2015 to a total of $2.81 trillion.
- The combined trust fund reserves are still growing and will continue to do so through 2019. Beginning in 2020, the total cost of the program is projected to exceed income.
- The year when the combined trust fund reserves are projected to become depleted, if Congress does not act before then, is 2034 – the same as projected last year. At that time, there will be sufficient income coming in to pay 79 percent of scheduled benefits.
“I am pleased that Congress passed legislation, signed into law by President Obama last November, to avert a projected shortfall in the Disability Insurance Trust Fund. With the small, temporary reallocation of the Social Security contribution rate, the DI fund will now be able to pay full disability benefits until 2023, and the retirement fund alone will still be adequate into 2035, the same as before the reallocation,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “Now is the time for people to engage in the important national conversation about how to keep Social Security strong. The public understands the value of their earned benefits and the importance of keeping Social Security strong for the future.”
Other highlights of the Trustees Report include:
- Total income, including interest, to the combined OASDI Trust Funds amounted to $920 billion in 2015. ($795 billion in net contributions, $32 billion from taxation of benefits, and $93 billion in interest)
- Total expenditures from the combined OASDI Trust Funds amounted to $897 billion in 2015.
- Social Security paid benefits of $886 billion in calendar year 2015. There were about 60 million beneficiaries at the end of the calendar year.
- Non-interest income fell below program costs in 2010 for the first time since 1983. Program costs are projected to exceed non-interest income throughout the remainder of the 75-year period.
- The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 2.66 percent of taxable payroll – 0.02 percentage point smaller than in last year’s report.
- During 2015, an estimated 169 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes.
- The cost of $6.2 billion to administer the Social Security program in 2015 was a very low 0.7 percent of total expenditures.
- The combined Trust Fund asset reserves earned interest at an effective annual rate of 3.4 percent in 2015.
The Board of Trustees usually comprises six members. Four serve by virtue of their positions with the federal government: Jacob J. Lew, Secretary of the Treasury and Managing Trustee; Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security; Sylvia M. Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services; and Thomas E. Perez, Secretary of Labor. The two public trustee positions are currently vacant.
View the 2016 Trustees Report at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR/2016/.
Emma and Noah Once Again Social Security’s Most Popular Baby Names for 2015
For the second year in a row, Emma and Noah are America’s most popular baby names. This marks the third year at number one for Noah and the second for Emma. There are two new names in the top 10 this year—Benjamin and Harper, the first time either name has ever reached such heights. Like a name, Social Security is with you through life’s journey. For future parents who need some inspiration and help with naming their baby, Social Security is unveiling a new baby names quiz at Social Security Matters, the agency’s interactive blog located at http://blog.socialsecurity.gov. At the blog, people can find information on retirement, disability, and survivors benefits, online services, and much more. It also is a place where the public can engage in conversations with the agency about what matters most.
Here are the top 10 boys and girls names for 2015:
| 4. Jacob
|| 4. Ava
| 5. William
|| 5. Isabella
| 6. Ethan
|| 6. Mia
| 7. James
|| 7. Abigail
| 8. Alexander
|| 8. Emily
| 9. Michael
|| 9. Charlotte
| 10. Benjamin
|| 10. Harper
For all the top baby names of 2015, to check out the new quiz, and to find where your own name ranks, go to Social Security’s website, www.socialsecurity.gov.
As she does each year on Baby Names Day, Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin encourages everyone to visit the agency’s website, have fun with the baby names list, and create a
Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov.
Social Security is a personalized online account that people can use beginning in their working years and continuing throughout the time they receive Social Security benefits.
Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries can have instant access to their benefit verification letter, payment history, and complete earnings record by establishing a
Social Security account. Beneficiaries also can change their address, start or change direct deposit information, and print a replacement SSA-1099 online. People receiving Social Security can request a replacement Medicare card online.
Individuals age 18 and older who are not receiving benefits can also sign up for a
Social Security account to get their personalized online
Social Security Statement. The online
Statement provides workers with secure and convenient access to their Social Security earnings and benefit information, and estimates of future benefits they can use to plan for their retirement.
The agency began compiling the baby name list in 1997, with names dating back to 1880. At the time of a child’s birth, parents supply the name to the agency when applying for a child’s Social Security card, thus making Social Security America’s source for the most popular baby names.
Each year, the list reveals the effect of pop-culture on naming trends. This year’s winners for biggest jump in popularity in the Top 1,000 are Alaia and Riaan.
Alaia jumped 2,012 spots on the girls’ side to number 664, from number 2,676 in 2014. Perhaps this can be attributed to high fashion designer Azzedine Alaia, or maybe it is because of Alaia Baldwin, the model/daughter of actor Stephen Baldwin.
Riaan increased 1,360 spots for the boys, from number 2,286 in 2014 to number 926. Of Indian origin, it is also the name of the young son of a well-known Bollywood actor, Riteish Deshmukh.
The second fastest riser for girls was Meilani. If you have ever watched MTV’s “Jersey Shore,” and maybe even if you haven’t, you’ve heard of Jenni “JWoww” Farley. She gave birth to daughter Meilani in 2014. On a different American shore, out in Hawaii, is another well-known Meilani--Bethany Meilani Hamilton, the professional surfer whose story of surviving a shark attack was documented in the movie “Soul Surfer.”
For boys, it was Huxley (a brave new comeback for the late science fiction writer?).
Some other notable names in the top 10 biggest increase category, and some possible reasons for their newfound popularity:
- Omari and Jabari for boys. Omari Hardwick is an actor, known for his roles in “Sparkle,” “The A-Team,” and BET Network’s “Being Mary Jane.” He currently stars in “Power,” a popular cable TV series. Jabari Parker is a professional basketball player for the Milwaukee Bucks. He was the second overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft out of Duke.
- Adaline and Zelda for girls. “The Age of Adaline” is a 2015 fantasy film starring Blake Lively, Harrison Ford, Michiel Huisman, and Ellen Burstyn. As for Zelda, maybe the legend continues to grow?
Please visit www.socialsecurity.gov to view the entire list.
Social Security Combats Homelessness and Helps Veterans Access Benefits
Carolyn W. Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, and other leaders in the fight to end homelessness gathered today to continue the ongoing battle against homelessness among veterans, seniors, and other vulnerable populations.
“Social Security plays a key role in reducing homelessness, and our benefit payments help people to secure and maintain stable housing,” Acting Commissioner Colvin said. “Social Security is the most successful anti-poverty program in our country’s history and collaborates with other federal, state and local agencies to ensure that veterans, people who are disabled, have lost a loved one, or are retiring have access to our benefits and services.”
Acting Commissioner Colvin joined with federal and state officials to discuss initiatives to end homelessness and outreach programs to vulnerable populations, including veterans, at a forum called
“Ending Homelessness: Lessons Learned from the Commonwealth of Virginia.” Representatives from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, and the Virginia Housing Alliance participated in the discussion.
In 2015, Virginia announced that it had ended homelessness among veterans. Many federal and state agencies are looking to replicate best practices from Virginia’s success in their respective states.
Social Security has collaborated with other federal agencies to develop key strategies for connecting veterans and other individuals experiencing homelessness to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits. Through partnerships across the country with the SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery (SOAR) initiative, the agency receives more complete disability applications. They have a higher rate of approval on the initial application because someone is helping the applicant, especially homeless people who have difficulty documenting their cases and getting their medical records. SOAR is a national project, funded by the SAMHSA, designed to increase access to SSI and SSDI for eligible adults who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and have a mental illness, medical impairment, and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder. The SOAR project provides training on how to complete the SSI/SSDI application to service providers working with individuals experiencing homelessness.
Veterans are at an increased risk of both homelessness and disability. Social Security offers several initiatives to accelerate processing disability benefit claims from veterans.
Since 2005, the agency has provided expedited processing of disability applications for wounded warriors who have suffered an injury or illness while serving on active duty after October 1, 2001.
Beginning in 2014, disability applications for those with a Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation rating of 100% receive expedited processing for Social Security disability benefits. Social Security worked with the VA to set up a data exchange to identify these veterans when they first apply for Social Security or SSI benefits. The agency is proud to support President Obama’s efforts to take care of veterans who have sacrificed so much.
For more information about wounded warriors and veterans who have a compensation rating of 100%, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/veterans.
For additional information about the SOAR project and initiatives to help people experiencing homelessness, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/homelessness.
Social Security Launches 3rd National
Social Security Week
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, welcomes everyone to celebrate the third National
Social Security Week from April 4 through 13, 2016. Social Security will host numerous events and activities across the country to raise awareness about the benefits of establishing a
Social Security account. This secure, personalized account can be created at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
“For more than 80 years, Social Security has been there through life’s journey. We are helping to secure today and tomorrow with information, tools and resources to meet our customers’ changing needs,” said Acting Commissioner Colvin. “Join the more than 23 million people who have already created a
Social Security account, a secure, convenient option for people to do business with Social Security anywhere and anytime.”
Social Security account, people can:
- Keep track of their earnings and verify them every year with their
Social Security Statement;
- Get an estimate of their future benefits, if they are still working;
- Get a verification letter with proof of their benefits, if they currently receive them;
- Manage their benefits;
- Change their address;
- Start or change direct deposit;
- Get a replacement Medicare card; and
- Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax season.
In some states, people can apply for a replacement Social Security card online using their
Social Security account. This service is currently available in the District of Columbia, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Washington, and Wisconsin. It is an easy and secure way to apply for a replacement card online.
Social Security Week, the agency will hold “Check Your
Statement Day” on April 7. It is important that people check their
Social Security Statement every year to learn about future Social Security benefits and to verify annual earnings. Personalized
Statements help people plan for their financial future. People can access their information when it’s convenient for them by creating a
Social Security account.
Social Security is also helping the U.S. Department of Treasury educate people about the value of saving for retirement. Millions of people do not have access to a retirement savings plan at work or find it difficult to start saving. The
myRA® is a retirement savings account developed by Treasury that removes common savings barriers and can help people start to save. Learn more at www.myRA.gov.