Veterans, especially disabled veterans, face a series of unique challenges associated with the return from active duty, attempts to re-enter the workforce and efforts to support themselves.
Most veterans, whether disabled or otherwise, look to the Veterans Administration (VA) for assistance, benefits, and healthcare upon their return home. However, in many instances, this support is insufficient to meet their needs.
In an attempt to offset the heightened challenges faced by disabled veterans (with extremely limiting conditions), the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers a series of assistance programs, commonly known as social security disability for veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and other disabilities related to their service.
The Veterans Administration (VA) and Social Security Administration (SSA) exist independently of one another, meaning an individual’s eligibility or enrollment in one program may not and will not hurt their ability to receive benefits from the other (unless VA benefits exceed SSI income threshold).
In fact, many disabled veterans receive disability benefits from both the VA and the SSA. This means that disabled veterans, regardless of whether or not they already receive disability benefits from the VA, are eligible to apply for both SSDI and SSI. However, because these programs are distinct, they have different eligibility requirements and benefits.
The primary difference between VA and SSA eligibility requirements is the severity of disability necessary to qualify for benefits.
Unlike the VA, beneficiaries of social security disability through either of the SSA’s disability compensation programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), are generally required to be totally disabled and entirely unemployable in order to be eligible for benefits (under the SSA’s definition of disability).
The specific eligibility requirements for each type of disability are detailed in the Listing of Impairments section of the SSA Blue Book.
There are also notable differences in the way compensation is determined under these programs. While the SSA awards benefits based on average lifetime earnings (SSDI) or economic standing (SSI), the VA utilizes a percentage-rating system which assigns each beneficiary a rating indicating the severity of their disability and awards benefits accordingly.
Because VA beneficiaries are not required to be entirely disabled, depending upon their rating, disabled veterans may also be eligible to work and receive VA benefits without jeopardizing their eligibility.
Application Advantages for Disabled Veterans
Because social security disability programs are not unique to veterans, the application pool is typically much larger than that of the VA, and as a result, has slimmer approval odds.
Disabled veterans seeking SSDI or SSI benefits may be eligible for unique advantages:
- An accelerated application process (for those disabled on active-duty)
- Increased consideration and chance of eligibility (for those already receiving VA benefits)
- Continued military pay for non-work activity
- Medicare and TRICARE benefits (through the DoD)
In order to capitalize on these unique advantages, disabled veteran applicants seeking SSDI or SSI benefits should include proof of their VA rating (if determined to be permanently and totally disabled), their VA disability award letter (if applicable), and any relevant military medical records which provide a documented history of the disability in their applications.
It is important to note that following updated Social Security regulations in 2017, the SSA may not use VA approvals to determine disability compensation eligibility. SSA decisions are also barred from being used in VA disability evaluations.
However, because the VA and the Department of Defense (DoD) are required to share all relevant medical records with the SSA, those records are used in the evaluation of SSDI and SSI applications. Records that demonstrate a documented history of disability are likely to have a positive effect on evaluation outcomes, even if the actual VA finding may not.
Moreover, the SSA may use VA and DoD medical records to expedite their application review process, meaning rather than waiting months for a decision, veteran applicants may have their decision within a matter of weeks.
Disabilities Unique to Veterans
Due to the exceedingly high-stress levels and unique physical risk associated with serving in the military, armed service members have a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with certain anxiety related stress disorders and disabilities associated with physical trauma.
To that end, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an unfortunate, yet very common, disability among American’s armed service members, which may require social security disability assistance.
Veterans with PTSD and SSDI
PTSD can be significantly disabling and (in extreme cases) go as far as to completely prevent a veteran from performing the basic functions of daily life as a civilian member of society.
As such, veterans suffering from extreme cases of PTSD are eligible for both VA and SSDI benefits from the SSA to supplement the income they would otherwise be able to earn absent the disorder.
As is the case with all mental health disabilities, the SSA outlines the eligibility requirements for PTSD and other trauma-related disorders in the SSA Blue Book. In order to be determined eligible for SSDI benefits, an applicant must meet all conditions of the impairment listing related to PTSD and undergo a psychological evaluation.
The knowledgeable and dedicated team of Social Security Disability attorneys at Krasno, Krasno, & Onwudinjo is here to answer any and all questions you may have, as well as help you navigate the eligibility, application and appeals processes associated with pursuing social security disability benefits as a veteran.
To schedule a free consultation, contact us today via email or call us at (844) 243-4849 or toll-free at 877-794-2396.