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Applying For Disability Benefits Online May Be Easier

Launching a public awareness campaign with actress Patty Duke, the Social Security Administration said that it has simplified its online applications to streamline the process for seniors and disabled persons. The agency says that its new online applications for retirement and disability benefits can be completed in 15 minutes or less. Social Security officials said that  it currently averages about 45 minuted for an employee in a field office to complete an application for a person who comes into the office. While the agency has had online versions of its application since 2000, in the past applicants would still have to print the application and deliver a signed copy along with copies of their birth certificate or W-2 forms. Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue says that in many cases the process should be paperless now, at least for retirement benefits. Persons applying for disability benefits will still have to provide medical records that verify their disability. The automation comes as the Social Security Administration estimates that baby boomers will become eligible for retirement at a rate of 10,000 per day over the next 20 years. Critics, such as the American Association of Retired Persons Legislative Policy Director David Certner, say that the new system should not "substitute for the ability to deal with a real person." More complicated applications and persons with questions about the application will still need to speak to someone at a Social Security office, or to an experienced Social Security attorney.