Social Security Administration Finally Adopts Electronic Signatures for Medical Release Forms

Applying for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) just became a little less of an ordeal.

When a person applies for disability benefits from the SSA, the agency conducts a thorough disability review to ensure that the applicant is actually "disabled" as defined by federal law. As part of this review, the SSA contacts the applicant's doctors and other medical providers to discuss the applicant's medical history and to obtain important medical records that can be used throughout the disability determination process.

Since doctors and hospitals are not allowed to disclose a patient's medical information to anyone, even the government, without the patient's permission, the SSA requires all disability applicants to fill out a medical release form, commonly known as an SSA-827, which authorizes the SSA to obtain the required medical information from a medical provider and releases the provider from liability related to the release. Up till now, the SSA has required applicants to print out the form and either mail it into the SSA or bring it into a local office.

Because this unwieldy procedure often delays the disability application process (the SSA cannot process the application without the signed release in hand), the government has decided to allow applicants for disability benefits to electronically sign the SSA-827 online as an alternative to filing a paper copy. Starting in April, adults with disabilities who are capable of signing their own medical release forms will be able to simply click and sign the SSA-827 as part of the application process. The SSA hopes to expand the electronic signature program to other categories of applicants, like children and people who are operating under a Durable Power of Attorney, in the future. According to the SSA, the new electronic signature option will reduce application processing time by an average of nine days.

To read about the changes on the SSA's Web site, click here.

Article Last Modified: 04/05/2012

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