What Is the Difference in Proving VA Disability vs. SSDI Disability?

Veteran on a wheelchair

If you are a Veteran of the U.S Armed Forces who applies for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you need to know that there are several key differences between what the Veteran’s Administration (VA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) offer for disability benefits. 

What does the Veteran’s Administration Offer for Disabled Veterans?

The VA has designated specific levels of disability for injured service members. First, you must prove eligibility. You must provide proof of active-duty service in the form of Department of Defense Form 214 (DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty), and also meet certain requirements to clearly document your condition, linking your injury or disability to a specific time and place during your prior military service. Once you’ve proven eligibility, you must clearly prove a service connection to your disability. This means that your injury or condition must be a direct result of the work you performed while in the service. 

The next part of VA Disability is determining the level of severity of your injury. At this step, the VA evaluates your case to determine the percentage of disability. Because of this, the awards for benefits are based completely on the percentage of disability awarded, be it 10%, 20%, or up to 100%. 

At the 10%-20% rate of disability, benefits will be paid for the veteran only, excluding dependents. Once you pass the 30% level of disability, your dependents will be included in the amount of benefits paid to you. 

What does the Social Security Administration Offer for Disabled Veterans? 

Based on a high VA rating for disability, many injured veterans assume that the SSA will automatically provide benefits. However, it’s not uncommon for Veterans to be denied SSDI benefits. Simply stated: with VA Disability, the claimant is often still able to work. For SSDI benefits, you must be disabled to the point that you cannot obtain gainful employment in any capacity. 

It’s as though veterans must play by one set of rules to receive disability benefits from the VA, and a totally different set of rules for the Social Security Administration. This can be confusing and frustrating, but it’s not impossible. The key is having an educated, experienced advocate on your side to help veterans navigate both the VA and SSA in order to help you get the benefits you deserve. 

A good place to start is a free case evaluation with Affleck and Gordon. We only get paid if we win your case, and we’ve helped thousands of Veterans, just like you, receive SSDI benefits in addition to their VA disability benefits. 

In addition, Starting March 17, 2014, veterans who have a VA compensation rating of 100% permanent and total (P&T) may receive expedited processing of applications for Social Security disability benefits.

How Do I Get the Benefits I Deserve? 

If you’ve been denied SSDI benefits by the Social Security Administration, but feel that that decision was made in error, Affleck and Gordon can help. 

First, we’ll start with your medical records. Often, veterans have voluminous medical records relating to your disability, but there is no direct correlation between your condition and your ability to work. The SSA looks closely at how your injury or chronic condition specifically impairs your work capacity, where the VA only looks at your percentage ranking to determine your overall benefit. 

A disability attorney will find the specific links in your medical records and assist you in compiling the most important details that an administrative law judge will need to see and understand in order to award SSDI benefits. This is a different process than seeking disability benefits from the VA, and your attorney and their staff can instruct you on how to best prepare your case. 

In addition, doctors within the Veterans Administration aren’t necessarily working to prove your level of disability to the SSA, either, so their records may, in fact, be somewhat incomplete. A disability attorney knows the right questions to ask to help you compile as strong of a case as possible. 

Even if you’ve been denied SSDI, a disability attorney can help you file your appeal and win SSDI benefits. The SSA states that over 600,000 disabled veterans also receive SSDI benefits in 2016, and many veterans don’t realize that they qualify for both VA payments and Social Security payments at the same time. This is why if you have questions about your eligibility, it’s important that you meet with a disability attorney in a free case evaluation to discuss the details of your potential case. 

If you are eventually approved for SSDI in addition to your VA disability, you are automatically covered by Medicare after receiving SSA  payments for 24 months.

Facts about Denial of Benefits: 

  • You may file for disability at any time after your service.
  • Of all original claims filed each year for VA disability, 31% are denied. 
  • You may have all, none, or some of your claims denied
  • Of those initially denied, 60% are denied in error. 
  • If your original claim is denied, you typically have one year to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD).
  • The average decision time for an initial VA disability claim is 94.3 days. However this is only an average, and every case is different based on the complexity involved.
  • An estimated 67% of SSDI cases are denied the first time. Reconsiderations have an even higher rate of denial at up to 87%. 
  • Having an attorney advocate on your side likely doubles your chances of approval. 

At Affleck & Gordon, helping veterans receive their disability benefits is a primary area of practice. Serving Metro Atlanta and the greater Columbus/Phenix City area, the attorneys with Affleck & Gordon care deeply for their clients and assist them with problems that may arise with their disability claim.

If your VA Disability claim or your SSDI claim was denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck & Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for decades. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 990-3945.

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