SS Benefits and VA Benefits


Social Security benefits and VA benefits are similar programs although they are administered very differently. The level of disability is often higher with SSDI or SSI than VA benefits because the Social Security Administration only recognizes total disability, and benefits through the VA are based on disability percentages as assessed by the agency doctors. The process of determining disability for both programs is also different, and a ruling from one benefit agency does not always impact a disability ruling from the other.

However, in many cases, the material case facts of one claim can apply in the other claim when certain circumstances exist. While it is possible to receive both benefits simultaneously when the cases qualify, they are still two separate programs with completely different ruling methods. Many times it is a wise investment to retain a West Virginia disability attorney when requesting a disability ruling of either type because the medical evidence can be subjective and different doctors may have different opinions. This situation is usually central to winning a claim for both Social Security and VA benefits.

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

Applicants for Social Security Disability and/or Supplemental Security Income go through the same process. After the local SSA office assesses eligibility for each program, the claims will be sent to the Disability Determination Section (DDS) which is a state agency responsible for determining disability.  Most applications result in a denial but this denial can be appealed allowing another individual at DDS to make a second decision.

The DDS will review the medical documentation supporting the claims that were listed on your application and your appeal if you were denied. Some medical conditions are on an automatic approval list, but most applicants’ claims do not meet this criterion. In this case, DDS will assess whether your medical conditions prevent you from seeking gainful employment for a minimum of 12 consecutive months. Along with your medical conditions and the limitations they cause, your age and work experience will also be assessed to see if you can easily transition into work.

If you are not successful at the State Level, your attorney can appeal to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Sometimes the ruling of the Veterans Administration can help in persuading the ALJ to rule favorably, but an SSA’s decision is always based on total inability to work with respect to all combined medical conditions. Your disability attorney will know how to address SSA’s rulings with the ALJ.

Qualifying for Veterans Administration Disability Benefits

Authorization for receiving benefits from the VA is a different process than from the SSA. While Social Security only deals with total disability rulings, the VA will consider the injury based on whether it is service-related and then evaluate the severity of the medical problem. When filing a claim for SSDI or SSI the evidence presented by your primary doctor is often considered as expert testimony, even when the administration sends the applicant to an independent doctor for an assessment.

To be eligible for Disability Compensation, the VA doctors will perform an evaluation of the conditions that the veteran claims are service-connected or is already receiving benefits for. Based on this evaluation and other evidence, the VA will determine a disability rating that is represented by a percentage, which is used to calculate the number of monetary benefits the Veteran is eligible to receive.

Veterans who apply for VA Pension, which is a program for those with low income may also be scheduled for an examination by a VA doctor. The number of benefits the Veteran will be eligible for will depend on their current monthly income and other resources. The total amount of financial benefits can vary greatly between VA disability compensation and the VA pension program.

How VA Benefits Impact Supplemental Security Income

In some situations, a veteran will be determined totally disabled by the Social Security Administration but will have insufficient tax records to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance. These claimants are normally approved for Supplemental Security Income based on financial need. The VA pension program is also needs-based and the ruling from SSA could mean approval for VA pension benefits as well when the veteran can qualify.

The federal government treats VA income just as any other income and the threshold on the amount of money for impact on SSI allowance is very low. Unless the percentage of benefits allowed are under the limit, an award for SSI will probably stop or be lessened when the VA pension benefits are included as income.

The VA benefit allowance provides a disabled veteran to earn considerably more money than those receiving Supplemental Security Income and will usually eliminate a need for SSI.

How VA Benefits Impact Social Security Disability Insurance

Social Security Disability Insurance is not a need-based program. Therefore, an individual receiving VA Disability Compensation benefits can receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits without being offset.

Retirement Income from VA and Social Security

In many cases, a claimant could be eligible for full retirement from both programs. Those who receive VA benefits from a twenty-year military record are entitled to standard VA retirement in addition to Social Security Retirement if they paid enough taxes. These beneficiaries can receive the full amount from both programs simultaneously with no penalty.

It is clear that disability benefits programs can be become complicated legal issues, especially when an individual is applying for both programs at the same time. This is very common after a debilitating accident for a veteran. It is often vital to have an experienced and effective Parkersburg disability lawyer who understands the nuances of how these benefits are determined in both programs, and especially how one program can affect the other.

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Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law

Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law