Your veteran status neither increases nor decreases your chances of getting approved for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The two programs are entirely separate, with neither having any bearing on the other.
Veterans receiving disability benefits from the VA often get denied Social Security benefits, many mistakenly assume that their veteran status, or the fact that they are already receiving one form of government disability benefits, influenced Social Security’s decision to deny them. But the real reason this happens is that the two programs have significantly different qualifying criteria, with Social Security’s being much more restrictive.
Eligibility for VA Disability and Social Security Disability
VA disability and Social Security disability, both SSD, and SSI, have many differences, and getting approved for one in no way guarantees or even improves your chances of getting approved for the other.
To receive VA disability, you have to be a veteran with a service-connected medical condition. In other words, something that happened during your military service must have caused or contributed to your disability. That something could be a combat injury, an accident during a training exercise, or PTSD. An injury sustained in a gym off base, on the other hand, even if it occurred while you were an active-duty veteran, would not qualify you for VA disability.
To qualify for Social Security disability, you must have a medical condition that renders you incapable of working and earning above the substantial gainful activity limit, which is set at the poverty line.
Major Differences between VA and Social Security Disability
One key difference between the VA and Social Security involves partial disability. You can qualify for VA benefits with a partial disability. In fact, the VA has a disability rating scale running from 0 to 100 percent that it uses to quantify the severity of an applicant’s disability. The higher the disability rating, the more money the veteran receives in benefits. Even a mostly able-bodied veteran, one who receives, say, a rating of 10 percent, can still receive benefits, though it probably will not be enough to live on indefinitely.
Social Security provides no benefits whatsoever to applicants with partial disabilities. It is an all-or-nothing proposition. You are either totally disabled and thus qualify for benefits, or you are not disabled and therefore do not receive benefits.
Another big difference deals with work status. Veterans can receive VA disability, even at high rating levels, without restrictions on the amount they can earn from work. The only exception applies to veterans who qualify for a special program known as Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU). All others may work as many hours per week and earn as much money as they are able and do not have to worry about their benefits being at risk.
Social Security disability recipients, on the other hand, face strict limitations on the amount they can work. If they earn above the substantial gainful activity limit (meaning the poverty line), they risk losing their benefits. Moreover, when reviewing an application, if the SSA feels a candidate is capable of earning above this threshold, it will deny benefits.
Why Veterans Get Denied Social Security Disability
The vastly different approaches taken by the VA and SSA to partial disability and work status explain why so many veterans classified as disabled by the VA cannot get approved for Social Security. It is not because they are veterans or because the government does not want to pay benefits from both programs — the programs are separate and have separate budgets. It is because most of these veterans are only partially disabled by the SSA’s definition or they earn above the poverty line.
How to Win Social Security Benefits as a Disabled Veteran
What if Social Security denied your disability claim even though you are fully disabled and cannot work? Then you should meet with a disability lawyer to figure out what went wrong.
Many veterans, operating under the misguided assumption that Social Security’s review process is similar to the VA’s, submit an application that is too thin and lacks sufficient evidence. Because the documentation they included won them VA disability, they assume it will be enough to qualify for Social Security.
These veterans often get approved on appeal because their lawyer helps them bolster their application with additional evidence showing the full extent of their disability.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Ogle, Elrod & Baril, PLLC, are proud to help our veterans get approved for every benefit they deserve. We can explain to you how to apply for social security benefits as well as help you put together a thorough and compelling Social Security disability application. To schedule a free case evaluation, call today at 1-866-628-8179.