Often, I see clients who are already receiving monthly benefits from the Veteran’s Administration, and are now seeking Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.
There is no legal issue with a veteran receiving both these benefits, but there are differences in how the VA and the Social Security Administration (SSA) judge disability that do confuse many disabled veterans who apply for SSDI.
The biggest difference between the two programs is total disability and partial disability.
Under the VA’s rules, a veteran can receive benefits for being partially disabled. This means a that due to a service-connected disability, a veteran can be rated as 50%, 60%, or 70% disabled and still receive VA benefits.
But under SSA’s rules, a claimant must be totally disabled and unable to perform any past work or other work available in the national economy. This disability also must be expected to last at least 12 months.
SSA does not issue percentages of disability. While the VA may find that a veteran is 50% disabled for an arm injury, Social Security may find that while the veteran is limited in the use of his arm, there are still many jobs available to him.
In some instances, the VA also provides benefits to veterans who cannot prove their disability arose from service.
Another difference is in what caused the disability. SSA is less concerned with the cause of disability. Social Security claims can only be denied based on cause if the disability was the result of drugs or alcohol or if it was caused in the commission of a felony.
The differences between the VA and SSA confuse many veterans because it’s not uncommon for an individual who is even 100% disabled from service to be found not disabled by Social Security.
While Social Security considers the VA’s decision, ultimately the administration has its own separate criteria for deciding disability, so the VA’s ruling is not binding on Social Security.