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A new disability claims process for veterans

Given the vast size of the federal government, it may not be a surprise for readers to learn that determinations of disability by the Veterans Administration may not necessarily be transferable when applying for Social Security disability insurance benefits from the Social Security Administration.

Although a veteran may be eligible for disability benefits from both the VA and SSA, receiving a disability determination in one may not expedite the application process in the other. In fact, applying for benefits from the second agency may feel like reinventing the wheel.

The SSA is a separate agency from the VA. It oversees SSDI benefits and employees its own disability examiners. Yet given the backlog in the SSA’s processing of initial applications for SSDI benefits, it may seem inefficient not to rely on determinations made by other agencies.

That logic may be the rationale behind a recent announcement by the SSA’s acting commissioner. Under a new process, the SSA will give some weight to determinations of total disability made by the VA. Thus, veterans who have a 100 percent disability rating from the VA can now expect to receive expedited processing from the SSA.

That’s good news for many veterans that have returned home with disabling physical or emotional disabilities. Yet expedited processing does not necessarily guarantee an approval. Indeed, an attorney that is well versed in SSDI applications knows the approval rate is well below half. In addition, many veterans may find themselves applying to both the VA and SSA simultaneously, and thus unable to benefit from the new process. For these reasons, an attorney might be a wise choice when preparing a disability benefits application.

Source: Social Security Administration, “Social Security Announces New Expedited Disability Process for Veterans,” LaVenia LaVelle, Feb. 19, 2014

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