Veterans of the armed forces can qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) at the same time they are receiving disability benefits from the VA. Since both programs are separate, qualifying for one does not automatically negate your ability to qualify for the other.
At the same time, the separateness of these two programs means that you must become informed about each one’s requirements and how one may affect the other. You can use the following information to help aid your decision-making and application process when it comes to applying for either VA disability benefits, SSDI, or both at the same time.
Qualifying for VA Disability Benefits
The VA only grants disability benefits to those whose disability resulted from an injury or disease that they incurred during military service. The value of the benefits granted correspond to the VA’s system for determining an individual’s percentage of disability. These percentages go in 10% increments from 0% to 100%, with the total amount of possible benefit reduced by the percentage of disability.
Unlike SSA rules, VA disability assessments are not limited to a designated “treating physician.” Applicants can present medical evidence from a variety of specialists and physicians, and the conclusions will be drawn from the file as a whole rather than from the assessment of one treating physician.
Qualifying for SSDI
The SSDI program requires that applicants have worked a set amount of years both recently and in their lifetime. This requirement ensures that the applicant has contributed through taxes most or all of the funds they could be drawing from.
Another requirement is that the applicant must have “total disability” as deemed by the SSA. This term refers to a complete inability for the applicant to work their prior job as well as any other available jobs in their area. A “total disability” assessment need not match up completely with the VA’s 100% disability assessment. In fact, VA disability benefit recipients with a 70% or higher rating have a high chance of success for their SSDI application.
One issue that may hurt SSDI applicants lies in the SSA’s “treating physician rule.” This rule states that a claimant’s primary physician must be designated as their “treating physician,” and that the treating physician’s medical opinions will be given deferential weight over the opinions of any outside doctors or specialists.
Getting SSDI and VA Disability Benefits at the Same Time
Individuals who meet the standards of 70% or higher VA disability have a good chance of being approved for SSDI benefits if they meet the program’s minimum work requirements.
However, even a 100% VA disability rating is not a guarantee that the applicant will qualify for SSDI. Court rulings have deemed that in many areas of the country, a VA disability rating assessment should be given “great weight” when the SSA is determining whether or not to grant SSDI, but that they are not required to come to the same conclusions.
Those who have qualified for SSDI but have not yet qualified for VA benefits may have a more difficult process since their disability must be explicitly service-connected.
We’ve been helping disabled individuals in the Greater Los Angeles area, the Inland Empire, and Orange County get the disability benefits they need for years. Call Dr. Bill LaTour and his team today at 800-803-5090 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation.