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Comparing VA and Social Security disability programs

Readers might recall that some U.S. military veterans can also qualify for Social Security disability insurance benefits, in addition to their VA benefits. However, the two programs are administered independently by their respective agencies. In practice, a disability benefits attorney would caution that there is no guarantee that qualifying in one program will predict eligibility in the other.

There are notable differences between the two programs. For Social Security disability insurance benefits, an individual does not have to prove a service-related impairment. In fact, he or she does not need any service connection. Rather, the primary requirement for SSDI benefits is a disability that prevents gainful employment for 12 months or more. The work impairment may or may not be equivalent to a 100 percent VA rating. An attorney can help guide a disability benefits applicant through these unique requirements.

An attorney can also suggest application strategies. For example, the Social Security Administration recently streamlined its administrative process for deciding claims for veterans with a VA disability compensation rating of 100 percent. However, that rating is neither required for SSDI benefits nor a guarantee of eligibility. The Wounded Warrior program merely provides an expedited claim processing.

Yet that expediency can be a double-edged sword. An attorney might caution that any time saving benefits offered by the program can be quickly undercut by a denial arising from even one or two simple mistakes. Before a disabled veteran begins his or her application, it can be worthwhile to meet with an attorney to learn about the application process for VA and/or SSDI benefits and what to expect.

Source: Time, “Rising VA Disability Payments Linked to Veteran Unemployment,” Mark Thompson, Dec. 22, 2014

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