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SSA and VA Disability Benefit Tips for Veterans

SSA and VA Disability Benefit Tips for Veterans. Applying for SSA and VA disability benefits can be frustrating and time-consuming.  Both programs help disabled individuals receive benefits.  However, they have very different requirements for determining disability.  The following tips will help with both. 

SSA and VA Disability Benefit Tips for Veterans 1:  Understand the difference between SSA and VA disability benefits

The VA doesn’t require that you prove total disability.  Compensation rates range from 10%-100%, in 10% increments.  However, you must show that your conditions were “incurred or aggravated by your military service.”  You must also show a nexus between your diagnosis and in-service incurrence.  Unlike VA benefits, SSA doesn’t distinguish between partial and total disability.  Therefore, you must show that your medical conditions keep you from working in any job.  Although, SSA has some more favorable rules for people over the age of 50. 

SSA and VA Disability Benefit Tips for Veterans 2:  Be prepared when filing your application

SSA and VA disability benefits applications require a lot of information.  Providing complete information gives you a better chance of winning your case.  For SSA, you should provide all of your medical treatment information on your application.  It should include doctors you see regularly as well as any hospitalizations or emergency room visits.  For VA disability claims, you should be very specific with what you’re claiming.  You should include your diagnosis as well as how it is connected to your service. 

SSA and VA Disability Benefit Tips for Veterans 3:  Understand the rules

Generally, Social Security disability requires that your medical conditions keep you from working at all.  However, Social Security uses a chart called the Medical-Vocational guidelines to evaluate your disability claim.  These guidelines are known as the “grid rules”.  The grid rules make it easier for older people to win their case.  Typically, if you are over the age of 50, the grid rules can allow Social Security to approve your case even if you can do other work.  The rules are even more favorable if you are over age 55.  However, the VA doesn’t consider your age.  Therefore, an approval from SSA doesn’t guarantee a 100% VA rating. 

SSA and VA Disability Benefit Tips for Veterans 4:  Get treatment with specialists

For both SSA and VA disability benefit claims, you should be in treatment with specialists.  Frequently, records kept by specialists record your symptoms and problems better than a general doctor.  They focus on specific information such as special tests or examinations.  Both SSA and the VA look at the severity of your medical conditions.  Generally, records kept by specialists can help document how severe your conditions affect you. 

SSA and VA Disability Benefit Tips for Veterans 5:  Stay in treatment

Again, both SSA and the VA need to assess the severity of your conditions.  Ongoing treatment with your doctors help document the length of time your conditions have affected you.  Ongoing treatment can also show the different types of treatment you’ve received for your conditions. 

SSA and VA Disability Benefit Tips for Veterans 6:  Getting your doctor to complete forms

Many times, medical records alone won’t clearly translate how your symptoms cause problems doing things.  Therefore, your doctors can complete forms that help make the connection.  For SSA, your doctors should complete an RFC form.  An RFC form includes both physical and mental limitations.  It details how your conditions impact your life on a daily basis.  For the VA, your doctor can complete a Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQs) provided by the VA.  These DBQs apply to every kind of disability.  These forms provide check boxes that make it easy for doctors to complete.  If the symptoms noted in the DBQ satisfy the criteria for a higher rating, the VA will likely grant that rating. 

SSA and VA Disability Benefit Tips for Veterans 7:  Attend all appointments

You need to cooperate with SSA and the VA in order for your claim to be approved.  At times, SSA will schedule a medical appointment to provide additional information.  Similarly, the VA will likely schedule a VA compensation and pension (C&P) exam.  You must attend any C&P exam.  If you miss either a SSA exam or a C&P exam, SSA and the VA will deny your claim. 

SSA and VA Disability Benefit Tips for Veterans 8:  Check on the status of your claim

Checking on the status of your claim can be important.  It allows you to make sure SSA and the VA handle your case properly.  You can check to make sure your doctors’ records were received.  You should confirm that they received any forms you completed.  It also allows you to check for any additional information SSA or the VA requests from you.  Lastly, it ensures that you don’t miss any important deadlines. 

SSA and VA Disability Benefit Tips for Veterans 9:  Appeal unfavorable decisions

SSA often denies claims.  You should appeal any denials.  Re-filing a new application doesn’t help you get approved for benefits.  It actually only delays the appeals process.  Your chances for getting approved improve when you appeal an unfavorable decision.  In fact, most cases have the best chance for approval at the hearing level.  The VA often assigns a lower disability rating that you believe you have. Similar to SSA, it is best to appeal your disability rating.  You only have one year to file an appeal.  If you don’t appeal in time, then you must submit a new claim and basically move to the back of the line. 

SSA and VA Disability Benefit Tips for Veterans 10:  Work with a disability advocate

Navigating the SSA or VA disability process can be overwhelming and exhausting.  Both require a lot of information and paperwork.  Working with an experienced disability advocate ensures that they get the information they need to process your claim.  You disability advocate walks you the process and answers all of your questions.  They regularly check on the status of your case.  Your disability advocate also files any necessary appeals.