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DHHS Efforts Connect Veterans, Families with Social Security Benefits

More than 1,800 assisted in qualifying for benefits more easily, faster

For release: Immediate    June 22, 2012
Contact: Jim Jones (919) 855-4840

RALEIGH – N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Al Delia announced that a months-long pilot project has improved access to disability benefits for hundreds of the state’s wounded warriors, and more than 1,200 other military service members, veterans and their dependents.

Veterans applying for Social Security benefits are able to transfer their complete medical records within 72 hours, down dramatically from a prior average of five weeks. During the trial 579 wounded warrior claims were processed in North Carolina by DHHS staff who determine Social Security benefits eligibility.

North Carolina was selected to participate in the project after federal and state officials recognized the need for a centralized Department of Defense (DOD) medical record repository. Previously, veterans in search of their medical records often found them to be scattered, incomplete or unattainable. Medical records are required by the Social Security Administration (SSA) before a DHHS examiner can determine if a veteran is eligible for benefits. DHHS partnered with the DOD and SSA during the pilot, which wrapped up this spring.

“DHHS is committed to improving our service to wounded veterans and other military personnel who have served our country,” Secretary Delia said. “These men and women deserve to receive the benefits to which they are entitled as quickly as possible. After giving so much of themselves for this country, why should they wait even one day longer than they have to?”

Social Security pays benefits to people who cannot work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Social Security benefit payments are based on average lifetime earnings.

Veterans and others seeking disability benefits may access information about eligibility online at www.socialsecurity.gov, through a national toll-free line (1-800-772-1213) or by contacting a local Social Security office. Local office addresses and directions are available online by keying in a zip code at www.socialsecurity.gov/locator.

The following chart illustrates the number of wounded warriors in 65 North Carolina counties who were helped through the pilot. The benefit of electronic medical records continues to accelerate claims processing:

Alexander 1 Johnston 6
Beaufort 5 Jones 2
Bladen 2 Lee 10
Brunswick 5 Lenoir 2
Buncombe 9 Lincoln 2
Cabarrus 4 Macon 1
Caldwell 1 McDowell 2
Camden 1 Mecklenburg 15
Carteret 5 Moore 14
Catawba 3 Nash 1
Cherokee 2 New Hanover 5
Chowan 1 Onslow 139
Cleveland 2 Orange 1
Columbus 1 Pasquotank 3
Craven 16 Pender 8
Cumberland 184 Pitt 1
Davidson 1 Polk 1
Davie 1 Randolph 3
Duplin 3 Robeson 6
Durham 4 Rowan 6
Edgecombe 2 Rutherford 1
Forsyth 4 Sampson 1
Franklin 1 Stanly 1
Graham 1 Surry 4
Granville 3 Union 4
Guilford 6 Vance 3
Halifax 1 Wake 13
Harnett 6 Wayne 10
Henderson 2 Wilkes 2
Hertford 1 Yadkin 1
Hoke 19 Yancey 2
Iredell 7 Out-ofstate 4
Jackson 1    

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