Some veterans may be eligible for Social Security disability. Disabled veterans can qualify for VA disability benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits at the same time. However, most disabled veterans are surprised to learn how different the two systems are.
The main difference in the two systems is that unlike VA disability, Social Security disability does not assess percentages of disability. The VA assigns a percentage disability rating from 0% to 100% in 10% increments. Disability ratings are the VA’s way of putting a value on how much your disability has decreased your ability to earn a living, but even in the most straightforward cases, the standards that the VA uses to establish disability ratings are very complex. And the complexity increases if more than one service-connected disability is involved. With Social Security disability it is all or nothing. Additionally, Social Security requirements stipulate that your disability must have lasted (or is expected to last) 12 months or more or result in death.
For some wounded warriors and veterans who have a compensation rating of 100% P&T (permanent and total) Social Security may expedite the processing of their disability claims. However, the majority of SSDI and SSI cases take many months to be settled because the claims are denied on the initial application and claimants must request an appeal hearing. Because of the backlog of disability cases the average wait time for a hearing is 22 months from the initial application date.
To win a SSDI or SSI benefits case you must prove your disability prevents you from working and that requires detailed medical records. If you are a vet applying for Social Security disability and your primary treatment facility is a VA hospital or clinic, the VA can transfer your medical records to Social Security. It’s always a good idea top keep a copy of your records for yourself, too.