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"Disability" determined differently for SSDI and VA disability benefits

In our last post, we began speaking about the standard the Social Security Administration uses in making determinations about disability. The Social Security standard, a strict one, is different than the standard used by the Veterans Administration in making disability determinations. Here we'll take a brief look at the differences.

VA disability ratings are given after vets are separated from service, and have been through a medical evaluation, which covers every condition suffered by the service member--not only those which made him or her unfit for service. With some exceptions, vets are compensated for every condition they suffer, but only those that were either caused or aggravated by military service. So service-connection is a key component of how VA disability works. 

After the medical evaluation, the VA rates the vet’s conditions based on a special schedule. Each condition gives a percentage of the disability of the vet. For vets who have the same condition or body part injury on both sides of the body, there is an additional special calculation made.

Over time, the VA continues to assess vets’ conditions, and changes ratings accordingly. These reviews do not happen automatically, though, and must be requested.

Much more could be said about how the VA handles disability determinations, but the point here is that it is clearly not the same system used by the Social Security Administration for purposes of SSDI benefits.

Those who have been approved for disability for purposes of VA, workers’ compensation, disability insurance, or some other avenue should not assume that they will be considered disabled for purposes of Social Security disability. 

Source: Center for American Progress, “The Facts on Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income for Workers with Disabilities,” Shawn Fremstad & Rebecca Vallas, May 30, 2013.