You can receive both VA disability and Social Security disability benefits. Frequently, disabled veterans apply for both benefits. Receiving Social Security disability doesn’t provide extra VA disability benefits. However, it can help increase your VA disability rating.
VA disability vs. Social Security disability
The VA offers disability benefits for disabilities connected to your service. You can get partial disability benefits from the VA. VA disability compensation rates range from 10% to 100% in 10% increments. Social Security offers two types of benefits. You must have worked to apply for Social Security disability insurance benefits (SSDI). You must meet certain financial conditions for Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI). Under both SSDI and SSI, your medical conditions must keep you from working for at least 12 months. Unlike the VA, Social Security doesn’t offer partial disability.
VA disability benefits
The VA requires that you meet certain conditions for disability benefits. Most importantly, you must show that your medical conditions are service-connected. You must also show a medical nexus or connection between your condition and in-service incurrence. Service-connected means:
- Your condition was directly caused by military service
- A condition was caused by conditions that are service-connected
VA disability: TDUI
It can be hard to get a 100% disability rating when you have more than one disabling condition. Fortunately, the VA provides an alternate way to total disability. You can receive VA total disability under total disability individual unemployability (TDUI). You meet the conditions for a TDUI rating if your disabilities prevent you from working and have a single service-connected rating or have a combined disability rating of 70%
Increasing your VA disability rating
Social Security recipients can use their decision to help increase their VA rating. Social Security hearing decisions provide detailed reasons for approval. You can use your Social Security decision to:
- Help establish your diagnosis, establish service-connection or establish severity
Using your Social Security decision to establish a diagnosis
Social Security looks at your medically determinable impairments (MDI). An MDI includes any conditions that have more than a slight impact on your functioning. Your Social Security hearing decision lists all of your disabilities. Therefore, your Social Security approval helps determine your diagnosis.
Example 1: establishing a diagnosis
For example, Sam applied for Social Security benefits for both physical and mental conditions. In Sam’s decision, the judge listed all of the conditions he considered when deciding disability. The judge also included specific medical evidence that supported his diagnoses. Sam was able to use his hearing decision to help establish his diagnoses.
Using your Social Security decision to establish service-connection
During a Social Security disability hearing, judges ask a lot of questions about your disabilities. Frequently, you have to provide detailed explanations about your conditions. Often, this includes when your conditions started. A Social Security hearing decision includes a summary of what you said during your hearing. Therefore, your Social Security hearing decision can help establish service-connection.
Example 2: establishing service-connection
In another example, Paul applied for Social Security disability benefits for degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis. During the hearing, he testified that he injured his back while on active duty. Paul’s testimony included specific details how his injury occurred. The judge’s decision included Paul’s testimony. Paul was able to use his Social Security hearing decision to help establish that his back condition was connected to his service.
Using your Social Security decision to establish severity
Social Security has very difficult conditions to meet for disability benefits. You must show that your medical conditions prevent you from working in any job. A judge’s decision explains why a case meets the conditions for disability. Specifically, the decision explains how significantly medical conditions impact your functioning. Therefore, a Social Security disability decision can help explain the severity of your conditions.
Example 3: establishing severity
For instance, John applied for disability benefits for PTSD. During his hearing, he testified that he often had flashbacks and nightmares as a result of his service. John also testified that he would become paranoid. His paranoia made it difficult to be around others. He had difficulty concentrating because of his poor sleep. In the hearing decision, the judge explained that John’s PTSD symptoms caused severe problems concentrating. The judge also explained that John’s symptoms would cause him to miss work a lot, making him unlikely to keep a job. John provided the VA a copy of his decision, helping him qualify for TDUI.
Using your Social Security disability evidence to support your VA disability
Many times, veterans receive treatment from both the VA and civilian doctors. Social Security disability claims need a lot of medical evidence. Therefore, your Social Security disability file should include most of your medical records. You can use your Social Security disability file to help support your VA disability claim or appeal.
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