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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.

36 thoughts on “How Does a VA Disability Rating Help my SSDI Case?”

  1. Thanks for sharing Johnathan. I too am waiting for what I expect to be a 100% rating from the VA soon. Currently I am rated as 90% by the VA which should have been 100% for years now. I have been service connected for Major Depression Disorder/Somotoform pain disorder/Degenenerative disc disease/Ulcer/Glaucoma/bowel impairment…just to name a few. I had the same question the other gentleman had because it has been such a fight with the VA in and of itself, I thought the SS administration followed their same pattern of deny, deny, and deny! Well I know its just a matter of time before I can no longer work due to these unfortunate conditions that I have attained and I sure hope that I wont have to fight for four years for my SSDI as I have with the VA. Thanks again! Kelley

    1. @Kelley:
      I was just reading all the comments about the SSDI and VA cases and would like to say that I had 2 denials and finally had to appear in front of a judge to hear my case. I won, and it was well worth the 18 months I had to go through to get it. I have just now received the letter from SSA telling me what my lump sum is and what my lawyer is getting and what my monthly pmt will be after they take out the medicare pmt. It has been a long time coming but I am glad it is finally over. Everyone going through this now, just hang in there and do your best to be hopeful and it will come in time.

  2. I have been rated 100% servic-connected, disabled by the VA for legal blindness and dementia and had a claim turned down by the SS disability office because of a technicality ruling. A friend hired me to do labor construction for a short while in 2004. the catch 22 is that this gave me enough credits for disability (I had not worked since 2002 and have not since). They are calling this “gainful employment” and disqualified me, even though this was a friend, the employment lasted only 6 months and was mutually terminated because it was not safe for me.

    I have now had to appeal this, and may not have a hearing for a year and a half before a judge. I will make sure I get all my medical records from the VA and send them to the appeal judge, because I don’t know if they even considered or understood the medical records which were GLARING in terms of disability. Who are these people making the decisions?

    I an shocked because it seems that the SS tries to find reasons NOT to qualify someone, even though they know I am clearly disabled 100%. It took 2 years with the VA whom I found much much more compassionate, and helpful. Everyone told me that it would be a “shoe in” because of the severity of my VA documented disabilities. Not true.

    Who could believe that someone 100% disabled, legally blind could be turned down on a technicality?

    1. @Robert: It took me 8 years to get 100% disability from Social Security Disability. I have had Anxiety or so they thought at the time but later found it to be Hypoglycemia and Diabetes. The VA disability determined me to be 100% healthy back then and still do even now. At the same time, I went to Social Security Doctors for same tests and exams and was declaired 100% disabled. So, go figure. How can a person be 100% Disabled and 100% healthy at the same time? Believe me people the US Government just does not make sense most of the time. The VA Administration and the Social Security Administration are both ran by the US Government. You think they could read off the same sheet of music but, they cannot due to the VA Admin not wanting to give any former soldier any money or medical help. They would rather pass the buck onto the State Welfare System rather than help soldiers, like they did me for many years. When you get hurt or sick while serving in the Civil Service or Military Service it is not the State Welfare’s job to take care of the ex-government workers both men or women.

  3. I would like to know how long does it take before you rececived a hearing date for a hearing with the Administation Law Judge

  4. Are you sure the SSA disqualified you because you worked in 2004? In order to qualify for SSDI, you need enough work history paying into SS, but you have to have worked within the past 5 years: that might be the reason you do not qualify now. If in fact you are somehow disqualified because you worked and received “gainful employment” for a period, make sure they review their decision if they have not considered that your disability includes being legally blind because their are special rules for blindness, including being able to “freeze” your work history, and being able to make more during a “trial” period than for other disabilities. At least have someone in SSA who knows what they are doing review your case with these points in mind. (Not all gov workers are created equal.)…and good luck!

  5. Something else to consider…if you have a VA disability rating for a service-connected condition and are drawing compension and you are approved for SSDI, you can draw both amounts fully. However, if your VA disability rating is for non-service connected conditions and you draw a non-service connected pension, and you are granted SSDI, your VA pension is reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount of your SSDI, retroactive to the date that the SSA determines that you were eligible for SSDI even if SSA backdates your claim by years. Many vets end up owing a lot since pension is based on income, they were “overpayed” by the VA when they receive the lump sum from SSA, their pension stops and they are expected to repay the VA before it resumes. And this is why you need someone like Mr. Ginsberg…

  6. I am receiving a VA non-service connected pension. If I go back into the workforce, the va payments will stop when I reach the monthly quota. If I work for five years and receive no VA payments, can I get payments to restart when I reach 65 and quit working?

  7. You have to be almost blind to qualify under blindness. I am blind in the right eye. But my left (good) eye must be 20/200 or worse to qualify under SSA. I have vision in the left eye. Also, you must have worked 5 out of the past 10 years to qualify for disability, not necessarily sequential.
    Since I’m 100% PERMANENT and SERVICE connected, SSA won’t affect my VA compensation for Agent Orange (Diabetes) related issues: blind right eye, renal dysfunction, CHF, Diffibrilator installed, 20-30% Ejection Fraction, quad bypass with dual stents, uncontrolled Diabetes with 3 shots of insulin per day. By the way, SSA denied on my first attempt and I gave up (my mistake). I am re-applying and going all the way, with a lawyer if I have to. My question: What part of 100% Permanent dissability does the SSA not undestand?

    1. @Hector:
      Hector, you need to get a lawyer. that is number one. Unfortunately, the VA and SSA are both government offices and the VA is unlikely to do anything to help other than your records. However, I was able to get my Primary Care Doctor to fill out a form from my lawyer which covered my conditions and what I could and could not do. With this the Occupational Specialist that was there to say whether or not there were any jobs that I could do couldn’t find one. So the judge had no choice but to find me disabled. I am only 50% disabled from the VA. The problem is you have to find a way to work around the problems. Since I knew that it was going to be difficult to get the information I needed because the VA doctors try to stay away from other government offices like the SSA. I went to my doctor and requested for her to write a letter since she is the one who has seen me at my worst, when I am in the most pain and it worked. While she wouldn’t write the letter she would fill out the form from my lawyer. Just keep working at it.

  8. Me again. You must tie in your functionality (or lack)in performing your current job. A listing of conditions is not enough. You must state how those conditions limit your ability to perform ANY job at your intake interview. Don’t do a half-arce job. They also look at your age and education to see if you can do other work. I don’t know why SSA does not properly advise people before they apply. They should have seminars on what they look for. Their backlog would dwindle, but lawyers would lose their jobs. Talk about effective government…..

  9. I have a question about retirement pay for 24 years of service, and 100% service connected VA disability. Will my VA disability effect my application for SS disability? I filed for VA disability in March of this year and recieved 100% disability. I was retired in January of 2009 by the medical review board. The medical review board found me permanently disabled and gave 75% retirement pay.

    I applied first for SS disability in January of 2009, and received my first denial. When I turned in my paper work the second time for SS diability I included all my paper work on the out come of the 100% VA disability. I am waiting for the second denial.

    My question is how does the SS disability effect my VA disability? Every thing I have submitted to SS for medical problems is service connected. How does my 75% retirement effect my SS disability? Will I have my VA disability reduced or will I have to pay back any of my VA disability? If I receive SS disability, will my medical help from the VA hospital be effected? What kind of restrictions do I have to follow in order to keep my SS disability if I receive my SS disability?

  10. I have been sick since leaving the US Army Active duties and was sick on last ride back to the United States. I served from Mar 1972 – Mar 1982 on active duty. SSA gave me a 100% disability rating because, I was sick coming out of the military. They so stated with my first check years ago. I worked no where but the US Army only. 10 yrs straight time. The VA Disability Board gave me a 0% disability rating. I sufer from PTSD, Epilepsy, and Diabetes with Hypoglycemia. I have been in a 28 yr battle for my VA Disability Pension without sucess. The VA Board of Appeals says I am 100% healthy and should go to work. The SSA Board says I am 100% disabled since military service. Whom is right? Personally I feel, I cannot work due to my many illnesses. Daily battle with Diabetes. AM I entitled to both SSDI and VA compesation check at the same time? Disabled or Able bodied?

  11. I have the same question as one of the folks above me…. Currently I am 80% VA service connected and am pending a 100% IU decision. I recently applied for SSDI benefits. The gentleman who did my phone interview said that the wounded warrior project will help speed up my ssdi claim. What exactly does the wounded warrior project do? I was honorably discharged from active duty in 2005 and I have never heard of the wounded warrior project. He said my claim could be done in several months or another. I asked if I should get a lawyer and he said not to worry. 90% of my medical records are at VA, and the other 10% in the civilian world due to VA referrals. I was kind of leary of what this guy was telling me, and it almost seemed as if he was pencil whipping me through the whole process. LOL advice anyone? Am I screwed, because so far it seems fubar….

  12. since 1996 I have been debateing with the VA about my Carpel Tunnel in both hands, well today I had an appt with the contract doctor for the VA, and was in his office for about 15 min, and explained about my pain and blah blah blah, he said okay I’ll put you in for 100%. Is that good so do they owe me some back pay or? 100% with spouse is how much a month?

  13. Folks:

    It seems like many of you are trying to do things too fast. Step one–Prove your condition exists and then link it to your military service. Use physical exams/Tricare referrals top do this. Do this for each rating.
    Step two: Get your VA rating where you want it to be. Appeal and ask for hearings if the VA disagrees. Use a Veterans service organization to help you (DAV, VFW,ect.) File your documents together, with Dd214, physicals exams, other medical records. Don’t make the VA ask you, give it to them first. Making their job easier will help you.

    Step 3: Once the VA rating is secure and you are at 100% combined rating (not UI) file for SSI. If you are <100 but are VA unemployable, and receive a 100% based on Pension (Not compensation) I am pretty sure there will be an offset.

    I recommend you stratigize before plowing the field.


  14. I just began receiving Soc. Sec. Disability and the VA Non-Service Connection Pension. I received a Pension check for three months covering the date I applied. I had informed the VA I had been granted Soc. Sec. Disability. Today I was informed via phone that my Pension monthly payments would be reduced and I would have to repay the 3 months check because I am receive Soc. Sec. Disability. I was informed that I would receive a call within a half hour with more details. There was poor phone reception, and I have made numerous unsuccessful attempt to reach the party who called me (not having pen/paper to copy her name). I had been informed that neither Soc. Sec. Disab. nor VA Pension had any effect on the other (neither would be reduced due to receiving the other). I am unclear as to the situation (do I own/will VA Pension payments be reduced/etc. I had been homeless, but upon receiving the 3-month check, I purchased a vehicle and have been accepted to move into an apartment complex on Sept. 2, 2010. I would appreciate any assistance you may have to clarify this matter.

    Thank you . . . Al Leslie

  15. Hello, I have 10% disability from the VA. i am applying for a review and increase in said VA connect disability.

    i just apply for SSI. since I’m 10% all ready will they just rate at such are more?

    I have list of issues. I feel that when i left the Military i was sick. I always have to check and recheck my surroundings for threats. Wife says I’m paranoid.

    then there the stomach issues and the VA doctor says its my diet. i eating a lot of the pain medications and medications for emotional issues. all i want is to be normal again.

    1. @steve: Steve, my husband also suffers with several va disability issues. it has taken 18 years to get his ratings where they should be. concerning the issue of continually checking for threats, this is a ptsd systom called hypervigilence. my husband does the same thing. when filing for his last appeal on the ptsd claim, they finally sent him for a phsycological evaluation to determine his GAF score. ( how well do you function in normal every day life basically ). it seems the difference this time from all the times before was that i had gotten so frustrated that no one seemed to understand what this all meant to our daily lives that i wrote them a 24 page single spaced letter detailing how his personality and daily life had changed since he came home from the war. i included details on all his disabilities, not just the ptsd. i also included details on how his behavior effected and limited the lives of myself and our children, our household responsibilities, our social lives, etc. the more interference you can show to daily living, the more they listen. they will not realize that it affects something unless you point it out to them. a letter from a spouse or anyone else who has seen these things first hand is considered evidence. get letters from anyone who can testify to the limits this imposes on your lifestyle and ask them to include as much detail as possible. it really helped a lot in our case.

  16. I was informed in Jan 2011 that I had prostrate cancer. I currently have been receiving 40% disability for over 14 years from the VA for NHL Cancer to liver. I filed my claim in Feb for the prostate cancer of which I had Brachytherpy in June of this year up in Seattle. I haven’t receive anything back from the VA, is this normal. I understood that they would rate me 100 % for six months and then what ever after that. Does anyone have something to add?


    Frank J. Dutra

  17. i currently recieve 50% VA disability for CHF.(35%) since my orginal rating I have been hospitalizd twice for my heart, my ejection fraction since being released is now22%. the rule state that below 30% is considered 100% disability with the VA. I have reseached other cases with almost the same problem being disapproved. i dont understand most of the medical jargon. Can anybody answer my uestion .What are the chances I will be approved for 100%?

  18. Greetings. After skimming through some of the above comments, I’d like to “nutshell” a few.
    If a veteran is in receipt of war-time Non-service connected Pension based on low income, there WILL be a dollar for dollar off-set with Social Security Disability benefits.
    If in receipt of service connected Compensation from VA, there will not.
    Also, VA awards Compensation based on conditions incurred in service…Social Security is awarded for all disabilities which prevent you from being employed.
    To make the process easy on yourselves, use free resources available to you. Most areas have county veteran services offices (field offices), and you can locate yours by going to Either click on your state, or the state listing under the map. These folks are certified by various service organizations (American Legion, DAV, MOPH, VietNam Vets, etc) and will assist you with VA claims and act as your liasons for many issues you will have questions about.
    Also note: A VA doctor CANNOT file a claim for you, nor grant a Rating Decision!!! They know as much about the process as the Raters do about drawing blood.
    Please don’t go it alone…we have enough frustration.
    My backround? I’m a retired USAF 1st Sgt &, you guessed it, former county service officer.
    Best to all! BAD

  19. Hi I have a question. I went to my rating appointment today and was told i was 65% with VA. Social security has turned me down up through admin hearing and case is now at appeals council because attorney found error in decision (turned down because I had asked my doc for a letter stating I needed my fiance’ to live with me when I applied for public housing due to my inability to remember how and when to take medications) he stated that he felt we were living in public housing and commiting housing fraud when my girl friend has her own apt and pays full rent no housing assistance I was just trying to help her.) Any way the doc at the comp rating apt at va said I was 65% disabled. So my question is this….Does this mean I’ve won?

  20. I don’t get any gov. check but with a lawyer I won my appeal and was granted SSD starting as of june2013 but I was told I’ll get my first check the4th wednesday of july for june

  21. I was rated on my initial VA claim as 100% Permanent and Total but denied SSDI on 2 separate occasions. My second VA claim for additional items has just been completed at 100% for those items left off of my initial claim. What do I have to do to ensure that I meet the requirements for SSDI?

  22. I am 100% P & T with the VA, 45 years old, with Several conditions(18) to include Anxiety, Low Back, SA, Carp Tun, Knee….I was denied SSDI…initially…reconsideratiion…..saw the judge and awaiting results. Had my shrink fully support me on a RFC form stating my limitations for Social anxiety. Despite this information. The Vocational individual felt I could work. My question is how famililiar are judges and vocational experts on conditions of veterans and how to properly adjudicate complex veterans claims? I am starting to hear a lot of nightmares from 100% Vets not getting SSDI though every indication would point to the fact they qualify and meet the stringent requirements?…..I hear a lot of judges do not know what to do with Vet claims? What is your take and experience on that?

    1. John, my experience has been that a 100% P&T VA rating will help you greatly in a Social Security claim. Most judges give disabled veterans the benefit of the doubt and are sympathetic to both physical and mental health claims.

  23. I am in the process of trying to get federal disability retirement. If I do would this help me with a social security disability case? Maybe at the 3rd stage in front of a judge?? Thanks.

  24. I am 100% P&T with the VA, I applied for SSDI and they sent me to a doctor who was not with the VA for an exam for them. about 4 days later I received my letter and was denied, I got a lawyer and filed an appeal. should I worry about losing my claim with VA because of the denial from SSD. and is it normal to be denied the first time.

  25. I am 100% VA Service Connected Disability and was denied on my first go (Currently in Second). The ALJ stated in a Letter of Denial that “you should be able to perform work as a Tank Commander as it is done in the civilian market”. The Vocation girl stated I had no transferable skills, the Medical said I had qualifying conditions, but the ALJ in Biloxi MS said I didn’t appear to be that disabled at the hearing. I told him I am a US Marine I grin and bear it as any Good Marine would. I grind my teeth and maintain. (all of my molars on the bottom have been broken off because of this, but I never compromised my team) The decorations and accolades of my service meant nothing to the ALJ. Most ALJs deal with cry babies and whiners, how do I deal with this guy that does not understand the Honor, Integrity and intestinal fortitude of a US Marine without compromising mine.

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