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SSA Now Accepting Electronic Signatures for Disability Applications and Appeals

September 28, 2012

The Social Security Administration is continuing to make more and more of their services available online. After what seemed to be a test-run over the last several months, claimants can now electronically sign their SSA-827 form for disability applications and appeals.
The purpose of the form is to request medical and educational information from the claimant’s providers. In the past, claimants were required to print and either mail or bring a signed paper SSA-827 to their local SSA office in order to complete an application or an appeal.
According to SSA, by allowing claimants to electronically sign the SSA-827, it decreases the application process by approximately 9 days. It streamlines the process and allows SSA to start working on a claim or an appeal sooner.
How does SSA verify the identity of the signer? SSA will take the answers the claimant provides on either the application or appeal and compares them to information they already have on file about the claimant, including name, date of birth, Social Security number, place of birth, work history and mother’s maiden name. If some information does not match up, it raises a red flag for SSA to investigate further.
Will this affect how quickly SSA gets a claimant’s medical records? SSA will still send the releases to medical and educational providers the same way they have in the past, and the form will look essentially the same. SSA says there is no change to the HIPAA compliance of the form. Instead of a “wet” signature, the form will state that it was electronically signed by the claimant. Medical and educational providers would submit their information to SSA the same way.
While it is progressive for SSA to streamline their processes and essentially make the process quicker, is it truly helpful for claimants, or more so for SSA? With identity theft becoming more and more of a problem every day, is this another piece of personal information hackers could potentially get their hands on? SSA touts that this change will help get claimants their benefits faster. If the disability adjudication process still takes approximately 2 years, is 9 days going to make that much more of a difference?
This change is still new and time will tell whether or not it is going to be helpful to claimants. The biggest help right now is that claimants will save money on printing and postage, but at what potential cost?

Written by Anna Westfall

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