The Social Security Administration (SSA) has launched a national effort to
convince physicians to switch voluntarily to electronic record submissions
following a limited initial response to the program.
The SSA and Disability Determination Services (DDS), which are the state
agencies that make disability determinations for SSA, began a national
promotion of a program called Electronic Records Express among physician
groups this summer. Although the program has been available since 2003, the
physician response rate has been low enough to necessitate a concerted new
The program gives physicians an electronic option for submitting health and
school records related to disability claims.
"When you receive a request for health or school records or other
information about a person who has applied for Social Security disability
benefits, you can choose the method of sending the information that works best
for you—online to Social Security's secure Web site or by fax to your
state DDS or to Social Security," according to a statement the agency
sent to APA.
Adoption of electronic record submissions is expected to save the SSA
significant money and reduce processing times, said SSA officials, although
the agency did not provide specific estimates.
Regulators in the Government Accountability Office have criticized what
they describe as "lengthy" wait times for the processing of
disability applications and concerns regarding the cost of disability
The SSA operates the Disability Insurance and the Supplemental Security
Income programs, which are the two largest federal cash-benefits programs for
people with disabilities. The disabilities covered by the benefits are those
that result in the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by
reason of a severe physical or mental impairment that is medically
determinable and is expected to last at least 12 months or result in
In Fiscal 2005, the SSA made payments of approximately $126 billion to
about 12.8 million beneficiaries and their families.
"Electronic processes can make it quicker and easier for medical
records to be transferred securely, eliminate mail time, and automate handling
so that disability applicants will receive a decision sooner," said SSA
Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart in a statement about the program.
The free program allows physicians to submit patient records through a
secure Web site using file formats such as: .doc, .wpd, .zip, .jpg, .bmp,
.txt, .xls, .pdf, .tiff, and .tif. instead of specialty software, the program
only requires compatible Internet browsers that are in wide use.
The submission of records electronically is not mandatory, and the agency
will continue to accept faxed submissions.
The Electronic Records Express is a part of the Disability Service
More information on the program is posted at<www.ssa.gov/ere/index.html>.
Physicians can register to use the site after they obtain a user ID and
password from a DDS professional relations officer for their state. More
information is available by e-mail at
or phone at (866) 691-3061. ▪