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Tanner Applauds Improved Service to Wounded Warriors

 

Chairman Urges Agencies to Continue Recommended Improvements

tannerheaderWashington – U.S. Rep. John Tanner, chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, joined with colleagues in thanking federal agencies for improving service to wounded warriors who are eligible for Social Security disability benefits. These improvements were cited in a new report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Tanner also urged the agencies to make additional improvements recommended by GAO.

“The Subcommittee on Social Security is committed to ensuring that those who have made great sacrifices in service to our country receive prompt and fair treatment when they apply for Social Security disability benefits,” stated Chairman Tanner, a veteran of the United States Navy and the Tennessee Army National Guard. “I applaud the Social Security Administration for the success of its efforts to improve outreach and service delivery to wounded warriors, and I am confident the agency will work hard to address the remaining barriers identified by the Government Accountability Office.”

“We owe a debt of gratitude to all who have worn the uniform,” added Congressman Sam Johnson, an Air Force veteran, former Prisoner of War and Ranking Member on the Social Security Subcommittee. “One of my top priorities is helping current and former military men and women get the care they deserve and the benefits they merit. While I am pleased to learn from the GAO that Social Security, Veterans Affairs, and the DOD are making progress when it comes to educating our wounded warriors about Social Security disability benefits and expediting their claims, there is more work to do. Specifically, we must improve outreach in veterans’ hospitals and expedite the transfer of DOD medical records to Social Security so younger combat wounded veterans will have better, faster access to the benefits they have earned. America’s servicemen and women are the cornerstone of our democracy and they should expect nothing less.”

Service members who have been seriously wounded may be eligible for Social Security disability insurance (DI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits from SSA, in addition to possible disability benefits from VA and DOD. In 2007, advocates began reporting that wounded warriors – service members wounded since 2001 in Iraq or Afghanistan – often did not know about SSA’s disability benefits or were encountering barriers when they attempted to apply.

The Social Security Subcommittee has urged SSA to make improving service delivery to wounded warriors a top priority. In addition, the Subcommittee asked GAO to conduct a study to determine what challenges wounded warriors face in accessing SSA’s disability benefits and what SSA, DOD, and VA have done to address these problems.

GAO’s report, released October 15, found that SSA, DOD and VA have worked together since 2007 to significantly expand outreach to wounded warriors to inform them about SSA’s disability benefits. GAO also found that SSA has successfully taken measures to expedite these disability claims, with help from DOD and VA.

Not all service delivery problems have been fixed, however. GAO found that some wounded warriors still face delays in receiving benefits from SSA because DOD does not transfer their medical records to SSA quickly enough. GAO recommended that DOD and SSA work together to address this problem. In addition, GAO recommended that SSA and VA work together to expand outreach to already-discharged veterans to make sure that they are aware of SSA’s disability benefits. The report identified several groups in particular need of outreach, including those suffering from traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Chairman Tanner and Ranking Member Johnson joined colleagues from other House subcommittees to urge Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue to promptly carry out GAO’s further recommendations.

“Again, we commend you on the success of your efforts to improve service delivery for wounded warriors who may be eligible for Social Security or SSI disability benefits, and look forward to working with you to ensure that they are fully informed about these benefits,” they wrote in letters to the agencies.

About Congressman John Tanner

John TannerJohn Tanner represents the 8th Congressional District in West and Middle Tennessee. Co-founder of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats, Tanner serves on the Ways and Means Committee, where he chairs the Social Security Subcommittee, and on the Foreign Affairs Committee. A veteran of the U.S. Navy and the Tennessee Army National Guard, Tanner chairs the U.S. delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and is serving a two-year term as NATO PA President.


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