Disabled veterans are able to collect benefits from the Veterans Administration and Social Security at the same time. However, the two administrations have somewhat different rules and procedures, so navigating between the two systems can be quite overwhelming. To avoid any surprises, it’s important to be familiar with their differences and similarities.
One primary difference between the VA and SSA is that SSA does not calculate benefits based on percentage of disability. With the VA, a disabled veteran may receive benefits based on, for example, a 10, 20, 50, or more percent of disability. With SSA, you’re either 100 percent disabled, or you’re not. The disability must last or be expected to last at least one year, or result in death.
Social Security requires quite a bit of documentation in order to prove a medical or mental disability. Unfortunately, you can’t count on the VA to provide all of these records to SSA without a few bumps in the road. Both the VA and SSA are large government entities, and due to the volume of cases they handle records can and will be lost at times. It’s better to obtain your own medical records rather than count on the VA to supply them to the SSA, and make copies before sending the records over to SSA. This way, if anything is lost, you don’t have to backtrack to the VA once again.
The average person who applies for Social Security Disability will wait three or four months for a decision – or longer, if the case is denied and an appeal must be filed. Veterans have the benefit of asking to have their cases expedited. If your disability is service-related, you can file a form called 1-2-1-95 Exhibit Critical Request Evaluation Sheet. This form states that at least part of your disability is related to your service, and this can help your claim to be processed more quickly.
Unfortunately, even veterans can be denied Social Security Disability benefits. If this does happen, you have a right to an appeal, and you have the right to hire a disability attorney to help you win your case.