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Military Vet Approved for VA Disability, But Denied Social Security Disability

WXIA TV in Atlanta recently ran a story about a 53 year old U.S. Navy veteran who was approved for VA benefits but denied for Social Security.  Retired Navy vet Daniel Norfleat from Covington, Georgia was deemed 90% disabled and unemployable by the VA for PTSD, a heart attack, a stroke and knee surgeries.  Mr. Norfleat applied for Social Security disability and was approved, but SSA changed his onset date.

Norfleat appealed and his case went before a Social Security administrative law judge.  The ALJ not only refused to change the onset date but she reversed the finding of disability entirely and ruled that Mr. Norfleat has the capacity to work at a full time  job.  This despite opinions to the contrary from 15 different doctors and prescriptions for 24 pills a day for pain, depression and insomnia.

Under new rules released by Social Security, their judge no longer has to explain why she disagrees with the VA’s decision.  These new rules also provide that Social Security no longer has to give controlling weight to opinions about employability issued by treating physicians.  See my video here about these new evidentiary rules. Continue reading →

Discover How Disabled Veterans Can Optimize Social Security Disability Benefits

Utah Social Security and Veterans Disability Attorney
Joel Ban

Attorney Joel Ban, a Utah lawyer who handles both Social Security disability and Veterans Disability claims recently posted a concise and informative article on his blog describing the similarities and differences between the two programs.  Joel points out that a VA disability rating of 70% or higher can help your Social Security claim – this confirms my experience that Social Security judges will give weight to VA disability findings.

Joel was kind enough to give me permission to reprint his article in its entirety, which I have done below.

VA Disabiltiy and Social Security DisabilityThis article is an overview of the highlights of the major topics for Veterans who have both Veterans Disability claims as well as Social Security Disability claims. A lot of Veterans may have both Social Security and Veterans Disability Claims going on either at the same time or may have received one benefit before applying for the other. VA compensation, aka service connected disability is not based on income so you can definitely receive VA compensation and Social Security Disability (SSDI) at the same time. There is also VA pension which is a needs based program, very similar to Supplemental Security Income (SSI). VA pension will be paid to Veterans if they have very little or no income and are disabled based on non service disabilities. It is possible to receive SSI and VA pension at the same time. Based on your circumstances its best to qualify for both VA compensation and Social Security Disability since they generally are the more generous benefits, however its important to be aware of these other needs based programs.

Major Differences between the Programs

Major differences between Social Security Disability and Veterans Disability is that you don’t need a total disability in order to be eligible for VA compensation. In fact, most Veterans who receive VA compensation do not receive a total disability rating. Veterans can receive a compensable rating as low as the 10% level and can have a rating as low as 0%. In many cases it makes sense to go for a 0% rating even though its not compensable. The reason for this is that it will mean that the Veteran at least has a service connected disability that will likely deteriorate into a more serious problem and later morph into a compensable disability. Many Veterans have trouble proving service connection but with a 0% rating the Veteran will have already crossed this hurdle. Social Security Disability, conversely does not compensate claimants based on a partial loss of employability. You are either disabled or not disabled under this program. Continue reading →

How Does a VA Disability Rating Help my SSDI Case?

I recently received the following email from a reader of this blog.

I have a claim going now for SSDI and have not recieved a decision yet however after reading your blog I am very curious about your experience with VA disability and SSDI. I am 100% disabled and receive VA disability. How does or can this affect my SSDI claim?

Jonathan Ginsberg responds: Generally, a disability finding by the VA will be of great benefit in your Social Security case.  The Social Security law provides that judges must consider VA findings as evidence in your favor.  It has been my experience that any SSDI case that also has a 100% VA disaiblity finding has been a winner.  Even cases where the VA disability rating is less than 100% are usually approved.

Social Security Earnings Credits for Military Veterans

I receive a number of inquiries about Social Security earnings credits for veterans.  In researching this issue, it appears that Social Security has a mish-mash of rules about how to credit service hours for veterans, especially for military service in World War II, the Korean War and even Vietnam.

Here is the link to a page that summarizes rules about Social Security earnings credits for veterans.  It appears to me that there is no single answer to this question – it appears that the years of service and the status of the serviceman or servicewoman determine how many credits are awarded.

Social Security has also published a booklet that summarizes the rules for calculating Social Security earnings credit for veterans of military service.  These rules include the following:

If you served in the military from 1940 through 1956, including attendance at a service academy, you did not pay Social Security taxes. However, SSA will credit you with $160 a month in earnings for military service from September 16, 1940, through December 31, 1956, if:

  • You were honorably discharged after 90 or more days of service, or you were released because of a disability or injury received in the line of duty; or

  • You are applying for survivors benefits based on a veteran’s work and the veteran died while on active duty.

You cannot receive these special credits if you are receiving a federal ­benefit based on the same years of service, unless you were on active duty after 1956. If you were on active duty after 1956, you can get the special credit for 1951 through 1956, even if you are receiving a military retirement based on service during that period.

If you served in the military from 1957 through 1977, you are credited with $300 in additional earnings for each calendar quarter in which you received active duty basic pay.

If you served in the military from 1978 through 2001, you are credited with an additional $100 in earnings, up to a maximum of $1,200 a year, for every $300 in active duty basic pay. After 2001, additional earnings are no longer credited.

If you began your service after September 7, 1980, and did not complete at least 24 months of active duty or your full tour, you may not be able to receive the additional earnings. Check with SSA for more information.

If you are dealing with this problem, do not hesitate to contact your Senator or U.S. Representative’s office for help.

[tag] Social Security earnings credit for veterans [/tag]