Many of our brave veterans feel confounded when they receive confirmation of their disability from the VA but still have to undergo the same process with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Sometimes, they even have their SSDI applications rejected by the SSA despite being eligible for a 100 percent disability rating from the VA.
This conflicting information can feel confusing, but it helps to recognize that the VA and SSA are two separate administrations with very different requirements and processes for qualifying for their disability programs. A VA assessment of partial or total disability can often help when an SSDI applicant seeks additional financial support, but it is far from a guarantee.
Learn more about how the VA and SSA differ and how you can help your chances of SSDI approval by reading on.
Different Disability Programs Means Different Criteria
Part of the reason a VA disability benefit recipient may not qualify for SSDI lies in the different selection criteria used by each administration.
Firstly, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs requires that all VA disability applicants have served in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard or in non-civilian positions directly related to those branches. Any disability that can qualify them for benefits must have resulted from a disease or injury caused during an incident while they were in service. Veterans must also have total, 100 percent disability according to the VA disability rating system in order to receive benefits.
Social Security disability insurance applicants must satisfy working requirements, which usually states that applicants must have worked at least five out of the last ten years. They must also have worked long enough in general to accrue substantial Social Security payment contributions from their income taxes. Those 62 and older, for instance, must have worked at least 10 years in their lifetime. Younger applicants may need a shorter duration of SS-contributing income.
These work-based stipulations alone could rule out some VA disability benefits recipients from receiving SSDI, but other discrepancies lie in the different disability diagnoses the SSA accepts. The Social Security Administration maintains a list of designated conditions that qualify individuals for disability along with specific guidelines for many of the conditions. If your disability lies on their list, you may automatically qualify as disabled by their standards. If your disability is not part of their clearly designated criteria, the SSA will have to dive down into your medical limitations to determine if you are capable of performing work in the U.S.
Why the SSA Has to At Least Acknowledge the VA
Even though the two departments have different criteria, many Circuit Court decisions have ruled that the SSA must at least acknowledge the evidence of disability provided by the VA when deciding to reject an applicant. Many courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, have deemed that the SSA must give “great weight” to the VA’s disability rating when evaluating a candidate.
In other words, the SSA must explain themselves — in detail — as to why their opinion differs from the VA’s.
Appealing an SSDI Denial with a CA Disability Lawyer
If you have been given a 100% disability rating by the VA but denied Social Security disability benefits, you should get the help of a knowledgeable California disability lawyer to help manage your appeal and assemble the needed documentation for your case.
Contact Dr. Bill LaTour now using the number above or via our online contact form.