Expanding on our discussion about the crucial role of treating physicians in assessing Social Security disability claims, it’s important to address the unique challenges faced by a special group of applicants: our veterans.
On October 26, 2023, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) voiced their concerns before the House Ways and Means Committee, highlighting the injustices experienced by our nation’s heroes within the current disability evaluation process.
After their service, veterans often carry wounds that will disable them for the rest of their lives. However, when they seek access to Social Security disability, they encounter a system filled with delays and inefficiencies and have lower odds of being found disabled than those who have not served. As Interim NOSSCR CEO David Camp testified, one significant issue is Social Security’s disregard for Veterans Affairs (VA) disability findings.
This egregious requirement is not a procedural flaw but a serious mistake that unfairly skews the system against those who have served.
Since the removal of the treating physician rule in 2017, Social Security adjudicators are no longer required to consider VA findings—a departure from an approach that previously ensured that medical evaluations conducted by the VA were respected and carried weight in determining applicants’ eligibility for benefits.
Consequently, despite the VA’s dedication to veterans’ welfare, VA providers’ evaluations of their own patients can be discarded or ignored by Social Security. This absurdity is compounded when the veteran has already been deemed disabled by the VA.
The fact that another agency within the same federal government simply disregards those findings is unconscionable.
The end result frequently is long delays and often outright refusal of Social Security benefits, inflicting further hardship on disabled veterans. It is confusing, frustrating, and inefficient that SSA wholesale disregards disability findings made by the VA.
The repercussions of this change are serious and disheartening. As emphasized by the testimony from NOSSCR and supported by data presented to Ways and Means.
During the hearing, Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) expressed concern and urgency. “Merely allocating resources or funds will not solve this issue,” Pascrell said. “Mr. Camp’s testimony on veterans resonated with me when he mentioned reconsideration. My concern for veterans has only grown.” These words reflect the sentiment that addressing this problem goes beyond resource allocation; it necessitates confronting biases and changing Social Security’s policy.
NOSSCR has proposed a solution: reinstate and strengthen the consideration of VA findings in the Social Security disability adjudication process. By doing so, SSA can rectify the imbalance that harms veterans who apply for benefits.
Our veterans have already served our country. It is truly unjust to burden them again with inefficient, duplicative bureaucracy that deprives them of earned benefits.
NOSSCR’s call to action goes beyond advocating for policy reforms. It emphasizes the importance of honoring our veterans by providing them with an unbiased process and fair chance to receive benefits from Social Security.