If you have a military service-connected disability, you may be wondering if it is possible to get disability compensation from both the Veteran's Administration and Social Security. It is possible, but there are a few important things to understand about the differences between them, and how those differences may work in your favor. There are a few things you need to know; find out more here.
Understand the different rating systems of VA & Social Security
The rating systems are vastly different between the Veteran's Administration and the Social Security Administration. In the VA, disabilities are based on a percentage. First, they determine if you are eligible for disability. Then they determine the degree of your disability and apply a percentage to it. For the Social Security Administration, it's all or nothing. They consider you either disabled or not.
File your VA service-related disability first
A decision by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals states that the SSA must give substantial weight to a disability rating given by the VA. This means you may have an easier time getting approved for SSDI if you have already been rated as being disabled by the VA. If you served in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan, you may fall under what is called a presumed disability, and may suffer from what some people have previously referred to as Gulf War Syndrome.
VA disability status & payments
If you have a presumed disability or can prove that your injuries are related to your military service, then the VA will look at how severely disabled you are and compensate you accordingly. For example, they may find you are 70% disabled and compensate you with 70% of the base pay, which is also based on your dependents which can include your spouse, your parents, and your children. This compensation will not keep you from receiving SSDI. However, it may keep you from being given SSI, which is a supplemental income that is needs based.
It is possible to be given the disability status by the VA but have it rated at 0%. This can happen if you are presumed to have health problems based on where you were while in service, but you don't yet have health problems severe enough to cause you to miss any work. Of course, the higher rating you are given by the VA, the better your chance will be to be approved for disability compensation by the SSA.
Expedite Social Security claim for service-connected disability
After the VA has given you the status of having a disability and you are ready to move forward with your Social Security disability claim. There are two ways you can expedite a Social Security disability claim.
You'll need to fill out a form called Critical Request Evaluation Sheet, I-2-1-95. As you read earlier, the SSA is required to give a VA disability weight when considering SSDI and/or SSI. You can file this paperwork on your own, but it is a good idea to hire a lawyer to help you complete the paperwork and fulfill all the other requirements you may have. You don't want a small error or minor omission to cause the paperwork to get kicked back to you with a stamp of denial.
Get your medical records from the military and the VA and hand deliver them to your lawyer or your local SSA office. That way, the SSA will not have to ask the VA for the records, given the number of veterans the VA centers deal with. Your original medical records will need to be sent in. Even though they are supposed to be returned to you, make copies before you hand them over to your social security disability lawyer in case the medical records get lost.