Neither Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) nor service-connected disability compensation (VA benefits) have limits on your resources to qualify, which means you can draw both at the same time. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—another disability program—is income-based, meaning you are unlikely to qualify if you draw both SSDI and VA benefits.
The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) rules outlining how to qualify for SSD and VA benefits are complex. If you believe you may meet the criteria or need help securing the benefits you deserve, call the lawyers at Berger and Green today. We offer complimentary case reviews. Call us at 412-661-1400 today.
What Is the Difference in the SSA’s Definition of Disability and a Veteran’s Disability?
SSD programs only payout for applicants who suffer from a total disability and cannot work or earn a living because of their impairments. Service-connected VA benefits, on the other hand, payout depending on the veteran’s disability rating. Veterans receive a rating between 0 and 100 percent, with those who receive a rating of 10 percent or above qualifying for compensation.
This means many people who receive VA benefits will not qualify for SSD benefits, because they can still work and earn a living wage. There may be cases, however, where veterans qualify for SSD without receiving a 100 percent disability rating from the VA. This is because the two programs use different criteria to determine impairments.
There is also the chance that a veteran’s disability is not connected to their service, but prevents them from working. For example, imagine you suffered a permanent foot injury in the military. You could still work certain jobs, but it left you with chronic pain. The VA gave you a disability rating of 30 percent. Later on, though, you developed COPD unrelated to your service. Your VA disability rating would not change, but you might meet the SSA’s definition of disabled based on your breathing impairment and your foot injury.
Our attorneys can help you understand how each program defines disability.
Does Having a Military Disability Rating Influence My SSD Claim?
When the SSA is reviewing an application for benefits from a veteran, they will request medical records from the VA or the Department of Defense in the same way they would any other medical provider. These records include information about the veteran’s service-connected impairments. In this way, they can influence the decision about SSD benefits. However, the SSA does not allow the VA’s decisions regarding benefits to directly impact a decision about SSD.
This means that there is no guarantee you will receive SSD approval even if you have a 100 percent disability rating from the VA. The disability examiner will, however, see the same proof of impairments the VA saw when they made your disability determination.
For example, if your medical records show you lost both legs in combat and suffered complications that limit your use of prosthetics, the VA may rate you 100 percent disabled. When you apply for SSD benefits, the SSA will review the same medical records and see that you have limited mobility because of your injuries. They may reach the same conclusion as the VA based on the same evidence, despite the fact that they did not take the VA’s rating into account.
Do Veterans Qualify for Expedited SSD Claims?
In some cases, veterans may qualify for an expedited disability claim evaluation. This occurs through two programs.
The 100 Percent Permanent and Total Veterans Initiative
Veterans who receive a 100 Percent Permanent and Total disability rating can qualify for expedited processing of their application for SSD benefits. This requires notifying the disability examiner assigned to your claim that you hold a 100 percent P&T rating and including documentation of your VA rating when you file your claim.
The Wounded Warriors Initiative
The Wounded Warriors program offers expedited SSD claims processing for veterans who suffered physical or mental injuries while on active duty. This is available for veterans who suffered their injuries after October 1, 2001. Any active duty, service-connected injury qualifies. To receive expedited processing through this initiative, you will need to tell your disability examiner that you suffered your injuries while on active duty.
Our lawyers can help you notify the SSA if you qualify for either of these programs so you can receive the benefits you need faster.
How Can I Learn More About My SSD and VA Benefits?
If you have questions about how you can get SSD and VA benefits, the Pittsburgh attorneys at Berger and Green are here to help. Understanding how SSA programs can work in conjunction with your VA benefits is sometimes complicated, but we can help you get the full amount of benefits you deserve. Call us today at 412-661-1400 to schedule a time to discuss your qualifications and let us help you with your claim.