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 →
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.
This 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 →