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Social Security Disability Versus Veterans Disability Benefits

If you served our country and suffered a serious injury during combat, or developed a debilitating injury or condition after being discharged, you may be tempted to pursue both Social Security and veterans’ disability benefits. It is quite common for veterans to have claims going on simultaneously. You can receive VA disability benefits and Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits at the same time. This is because VA disability benefits are not tethered to income, unlike SSDI insurance claims.

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by Port of San Diego via flickr

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by Port of San Diego via flickr

Understanding the Differences Between Social Security and Veterans Disability Benefits

A major difference is that the process of qualifying for VA benefits is less stringent when compared to qualifying for SSDI benefits. To qualify for veterans’ disability benefits, you do not need to be totally disabled in order to be eligible. SSDI benefits, on the other hand, are not accessible for a mere partial loss of employment. For SSDI, you must be totally disabled to get compensation.

Another difference is the “treating physician rule.” For SSDI claims, your physician is considered your “treating physician” and their opinion is given deference. Conversely, for VA disability benefits, your treating doctor’s opinion is not given deference. The VA has broader authority and can determine that your physician’s opinion is biased. This means the VA could require you to undergo an independent examination.

Pursuing Both Benefits Can Actually Work Synergistically

If you are eligible, it makes sense to pursue both VA and SSDI benefits. Why? Because if you are approved for VA disability benefits, it can help you qualify for SSDI benefits. This is due to the fact that another federal government agency has determined you are either incapable of working or you are disabled to the point where full-time employment would be difficult for you to maintain.  In fact, many federal courts have held that the VA’s assessment of your disability, and the associated disability rating, are entitled to “great weight” in the determination of whether you are actually disabled (and would therefore qualify for SSDI benefits). So this means that the Social Security Administration will likely place major weight on the VA’s determination of whether you receive disability benefits.

On the other hand, the VA does not place much weight on an SSDI benefit award. Why? Because the VA’s assessment of whether you qualify for benefits under their program depends largely on your service record and when you developed your disability. This means it is not necessarily the fact that you are disabled, but whether it is service-related. Nevertheless, the VA should be given your entire SSDI file and decision since this information could provide evidence to support your VA claim. In fact, the VA is required to consider your SSDI records.

Contact an Experienced SSDI Benefit Lawyer Today

As you can see, qualifying for SSDI benefits can be quite complex and there are numerous hurdles you must overcome. We are here to help. The experienced SSDI lawyers at Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, PA offer free consultations to determine whether you qualify for disability benefits.