As of 2013, an estimated 1 million veterans had been injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, according to Forbes. Upon returning home to Illinois, veterans who have suffered severe injuries may struggle to perform daily activities or work gainfully. Fortunately, disabled veterans can collect Social Security Disability benefits. However, a 100% VA disability rating does not guarantee SSD claim approval.
Disability under Social Security
The VA and Social Security Administration evaluate disability with different criteria. The SSA only considers a condition disabling if it prevents employment and lasts over 12 months. A condition that merits a 100% disability VA rating may still permit light or sedentary work. Similarly, a condition the VA considers 100% disabling may improve within a year.
The SSA can weigh the findings of other governmental agencies when deciding whether an individual is disabled. However, the SSA ultimately makes its own decisions. Applicants should recognize the independent nature of the evaluation and provide extensive documentation.
The SSA accepts objective medical evidence, such as test results, and more subjective evidence, such as assessments from physicians. Personal reports and statements from a person’s family, co-workers or friends can also support a disability claim. However, without objective evidence, claim approval is unlikely.
With adequate evidence, a disabled veteran may qualify for SSD benefits in a few ways. These include:
- Suffering from a condition and accompanying effects listed in the book Disability Evaluation Under Social Security. These conditions are automatically considered disabling.
- Experiencing a condition and symptoms that are comparable in severity to a listed condition. Such conditions and symptoms are automatically considered disabling.
- Receiving a medical vocational allowance. The SSA grants these allowances after analyzing the individual’s condition, functional limitations and work history to determine whether the individual can work gainfully.
Besides meeting these medical criteria, veterans must also satisfy other conditions.
To receive SSD benefits, an individual must have a sufficient earnings record and work credits. In 2014, every $1,200 of earnings is worth a work credit, and 4 credits can be earned annually. The number of credits necessary depends on age, with the maximum set at 40. The SSA also employs an age-dependent recent work test to ensure the applicant earned enough credits in recent years.
The SSA typically will not award benefits to people earning monthly income exceeding $1,070. However, the SSA does not prevent active-duty service members who are receiving military pay from collecting benefits. For these individuals, the SSA considers the nature of the employment rather than the pay scale.
Still, establishing inability to work can be difficult for service members performing light work duties or receiving compensation. These individuals often benefit from working with an attorney when seeking benefits.