If you are a disabled veteran here in Louisiana, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the Veterans Administration (“VA”) and also for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). According to a SSA fact sheet, approximately 621,000 military veterans received Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (“SSDI”) in 2016.
Note that the VA and the SSA are two different federal agencies and, as you might expect, there are two different sets of eligibility criteria and applications processes. There is, however, a lot of overlap. For example, medical records and physician reports are needed for both applications. Thus, many veterans apply for both SSDI and VA benefits at the same time. But even if you are currently receiving veterans disability benefits, you can still apply for SSDI. Here at Ascend Disability Lawyer, LLC we provide a full range of legal services for New Orleans veterans including helping them apply for both SSDI and VA benefits, together or separately.
Interplay Between the IU Benefit Program and SSDI
Many veterans know about the VA’s Individual Unemployability (“IU”) benefit program. This is the VA work disability program. To be eligible for IU disability benefits you must meet these criteria:
- Been in active service;
- Received a discharge under conditions that were not dishonorable;
- Have at least one service-connected injury/condition rated at least at 60 percent; OR
- Have two or more such injuries/conditions with a combined rating of 70 percent; or more (with one being 40 percent or greater); AND
- Because of that/those injuries/conditions, be unable to maintain “substantially gainful employment.”
If you qualify, then the disability payments from the VA will be based on a total disability rating of 100 percent.
In general — and there are exceptions — veterans who qualify for IU benefits are almost always eligible for SSDI benefits. At minimum, the SSA has an expedited application procedure for veterans with 100 percent permanent and total disability rating.
As noted, a VA rating of 100 percent does not guarantee SSDI benefits. The exceptions usually occur if the SSA determines that the veteran is able to do SOME sort of work. But those determinations are rare. You need a good VA/SSDI benefits lawyer to help under those circumstances.
Partial New Orleans VA Disability Benefits and SSDI: Different Eligibility Requirements
If you are not totally disabled, you still might be eligible for both VA disability payments and SSDI.
To be eligible for VA disability benefits (also known as service-connected disability compensation) you must meet these three requirements:
- Been in active service;
- Received a discharge under conditions that were not dishonorable; and
- Be at least 10 percent disabled by service-related injury/condition disease.
By contrast, you are eligible to apply for SSDI if you:
- Have a medical condition — service-related or not;
- Your medical condition severely impacts or impairs your ability to work; and
- You have had the condition for a time period of at least one year.
Note that to be eligible for SSDI, you must be UNABLE to work. If you are currently working, even with a VA disability, you are not eligible for SSDI. Likewise, for SSDI, any disability must be expected to last longer than one year.
Different Payment Bases for Louisiana Disability Benefits
If you qualify for VA full or partial disability compensation, payment is based on the injury/condition or combination thereof based on the rating given by the doctors. The payment amounts are listed here and are set by the VA. As an example, if your service-related injuries/conditions give you a 40 percent disability rating (and you have no spouse or dependents), your monthly disability payment is $600 (as of 2016). You are paid that even if you are working.
By contrast, payments under SSDI are based on your previous income. Your monthly SSDI benefit payments will be higher if you were a highly paid worker or lower if you were a lower paid worker.
Does Having Louisiana VA Disability Benefits Help in Getting SSDI?
Having VA benefits does not help with obtaining SSDI benefits directly. However, as mentioned above, having a 100 percent VA rating will provide the advantage of an expedited SSDI evaluation. Beyond that, the SSA does not give any “deference” or weight to the VA ratings.
On the other hand, going through the VA process helps because a lot of evidence has been collected by you and your talented Louisiana VA benefits lawyers. Such evidence includes:
- Doctors’ reports;
- Lab tests and scans (x-rays, CAT scans, blood tests);
- Medical records and medical evaluations;
- Histories — general medical and injury/disease related — onset and progression; and
- Prognosis reports.
The VA would have used these records to make a determination of your disability rating. All of these records are needed for the SSDI application. Further, the VA requires an independent examination and that, too, can be used for your SSDI application. In this respect, having VA benefits is helpful when applying for SSDI benefits.
Does Having New Orleans SSDI Benefits Help in Getting VA Benefits?
In a similar manner, having New Orleans SSDI benefits does not directly help in getting VA benefits. The key requirement for VA benefits is that the injury/disease be service-related. That VA makes that determination and gives little or no weight to the SSA’s decision. Further, the VA is giving a disability rating, which is a different kind of analysis than the one conducted by the SSA. Further, the VA requires an VA doctor to evaluate the claimant. This is given great weight.
But at the same time, much of the evidence used by the SSA will be used by the VA and the veteran has “gone through the process.” Both are helpful indirectly.
Contact New Orleans SSDI/VA Benefits Law Firm Ascend Disability Today
At Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC, we can help. We have extensive experience helping Louisiana citizens apply for SSDI when they are unable to work. We also have extensive experience helping New Orleans veterans apply for VA disability. Sometimes, the same conditions result in the need for benefits under either or both programs like debilitating depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD and the like. Our experienced New Orleans SSDI and VA disability benefits attorneys will fight for your rights to get you the benefits to which you are entitled. Contact us today by visiting our website.