Posted on: 19 August 2015
Did you know that if you're a disabled veteran, you may be eligible for both Social Security Disability benefits and Veteran's Disability benefits? You can collect both at the same time, but it means going through the process of applying for disability benefits twice. What's more, there are some important differences in the two processes that you're going to need to know about to successfully qualify for disability benefits. Take a look at some of the most important things that you should know about the differences between Social Security Disability and Veteran's disability.
One very basic, but major difference between the two types of disability benefits is the issue of disability ratings. Veteran's Disability applicants are given a disability rating somewhere between 10% and 100%. If you're rated as only 10% disabled, you'll receive a smaller amount of compensation (currently, about $123 a month for veterans without dependents) than you would if you were rated at 100% disabled (currently $2,673 a month for veterans without dependents). You may also receive additional compensation for specific injuries, such as the loss of a hand, foot, or eye. Unless your disability was determined to be permanent, you may be reevaluated at a later point, and your rating may change if your condition improves or worsens.
Unlike Veteran's Disability, Social Security Disability is an all or nothing system. You're either totally disabled, or you're not disabled at all – which means that you either receive compensation or you don't. You may think that this makes Veteran's Disability easier to obtain than Social Security Disability. However, Veteran's Disability has its own complications.
The Treating Physician Rule
Another big difference between Social Security Disability and Veteran's Disability is the Social Security Administration's "treating physician rule." Essentially, this means that the opinion of the doctor that you see regularly is given additional weight, assuming that their opinion doesn't conflict with established diagnostic techniques and doesn't contradict the rest of the evidence in your file. That means that if your primary physician backs your disability claim, you have a much greater chance of success.
The Veteran's Administration does not have a treating physician rule. If anything, your regular doctor may be viewed as potentially biased in your favor, but usually, the VA tries to give all of the evidence in your file equal weight. Furthermore, since many veterans see doctors who work for the VA, it's reasonable to be concerned that those doctors may have a conflict of interest between their patients and their employer when giving their medical opinion.
Can One Disability Approval Affect Another?
If you're applying for benefits with both the Veteran's Administration and the Social Security Administration, you may wonder how approvals or denials from one agency affect your claim with the other agency. Being approved for Veteran's Disability can actually help your Social Security Disability claim, especially if the Veteran's Administration gives you a high disability rating. The finding from another federal agency that you're unable to work, or that it would be very difficult for you to work, is given substantial weight by the organization that reviews your Social Security Disability Claim. A low rating won't necessarily hurt your claim, either – since the Veteran's Administration only approves disability benefits for service-related disabilities, it's possible for you to have a low disability rating for your service-related injury, but qualify for total disability based on a non-service-related injury or illness.
However, being approved for Social Security Disability benefits will not necessarily help you obtain Veteran's Disability benefits. That's because a finding that you're disabled from the Social Security Administration won't clarify whether or not your disability is service-related. If you have multiple disabilities or the cause of your disability is unclear, the VA may settle on a non-service-related explanation for some or all of your disability.
Applying for one type of disability benefit is difficult. Applying for two different types of disability benefits through two different and very complex systems significantly raises the difficulty level. Your best bet is not to try to go it alone. Seek out the help of an experienced disability attorney in your area to help you come up with the best strategy for receiving the disability compensation that you deserve.
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