It is possible to apply for benefits under the Social Security Act, as well as apply for benefits offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs ("VA"). As long as the veteran has eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (which is based on having a continuous work history) or Supplemental Security Income benefits (which is based on having limited financial resources), then it is possible to receive both VA benefits and Social Security disability benefits A veteran does not need to apply for VA benefits in order to apply for Social Security disability benefits.
Does It Help Your Social Security Disability Claim If You Receive VA Benefits?
This question is more nuanced than a "yes" or "no" answer, but an approval for VA benefits may help your Social Security disability claim. In particular, if a veteran receives a 100% permanent and total impairment rating, this normally indicates that the veteran will have the right kind of evidence to prove disability to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Nonetheless, the VA and the SSA analyze impairments differently.
The SSA follows a five step evaluation process to determine if an individual is disabled for the purposes of Social Security benefits. This includes whether the individual is earning income from work, whether they have severe impairments, whether the severe impairments are disabling according to the SSA's medical "listings", what work restrictions the individual has, and whether or not the individual can return to past work or any other work. In addition, the SSA has rules that somewhat relax the standard of disability when a claimant reaches age 50 and 55. Due to the application of these various factors, an individual may have a VA rating of disability, but not be disabled for the purposes of a Social Security disability claim.
It is also worth noting that the SSA has a rule to allow for an expedited hearing if a veteran is receiving 100% impairment rating. The SSA will designate your case as "critical" if you are a veteran with a 100 percent permanent and total disability compensation rating from the VA. The average wait time for a hearing is typically multiple years from the date of application, but a 100% P&T rating can reduce the wait substantially.
Finally, maintaining medical treatment is essential to proving disability. One benefit for veterans is that they have the option to pursue medical treatment at their local VA hospital. Access to medical treatment is important to explain why a veteran is disabled for the purposes of both their VA claim and SSA disability claim. Information from the VA can be easily obtained and shared for a veteran's Social Security disability claim. In fact, the SSA and VA are obligated by law to share the following types of information: medical evidence and hospital records, disability determinations, benefit receipt and payment amounts. See “Veterans Benefits: Joint Applications for Social Security and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation” for more detailed information.)
Contact Keller & Keller
If you are a veteran applying for Social Security disability benefits, contact us online or call us directly at 1-800-253-5537 for a free consultation.