Matthew: Hello, and welcome to another edition of the Hill & Ponton Veterans Video Blog. I’m Matthew Hill.
Carol: I’m Carol Ponton.
Matthew: Today we’d like to talk to you about the difference between Social Security disability and veterans’ disability. There are two systems administered by our government. They seem very similar but once you get down to the details they are not.
As an overview, we look at Social Security and it’s very much a black and white system: either you’re completely disabled or you’re not.
Carol: There’s no partial. There’s no 90%.
Matthew: Whereas, with the VA there are just so many more layers. You’re service connected or not. But once you’re service connected, then the rating is rated at the extent of the severity of the disability. So you could be 0%.
Carol: According to the VA regulations, which is totally different from Social Security. The Social Security is not interested in 10%, 20%, 30%; Social Security wants to know your physical limitations: how far can you walk, how long can you stand, how long can you sit, how long can you concentrate. They put it all together, and you’re either disabled or you’re not. Okay?
It’s kind of crazy because you think, “Wait a minute. This government over here (Social Security) says I’m disabled, but this government over here (the VA says) I’m not.” What do you do about that? You have to first realize that they are both using different rules and different regulations.
Matthew: Let’s say that – I think what Carol’s getting to – a person or a veteran who is completely disabled. He is acknowledged through one system (Social Security) that he is completely disabled, but then the veteran’s system does not acknowledge that. Disability gives veterans 70%, 60%, 80%.
We get veterans all the time who come to us and say: “I can’t work because of my back, my back and the radiculopathy it causes. Social security is paying me, but VA will only pay me 60%.” Those are cases where the veterans should be applying for unemployability through VA. But they need to recognize that just because Social Security is giving them 100%, it’s not like they can sit back and rest and say, “This is going to be a shoe-in.”
Carol: The proof they used for Social Security is pretty much irrelevant, even though it’s not supposed to be, but it is because of the way the VA regulates and rates people. I see one going from one to the other and thinking, “Why doesn’t it work?” It’s because you need to figure out the rules. What is it that Social Security wants me to prove as opposed to the VA? Social security really doesn’t care how far you can bend, unlike the VA.
Matthew: What’s frustrating there is that Social Security is really looking at the restrictions you have on your ability to earn an income and to actually work.
Carol: They don’t care where it came from. They don’t care how you became disabled. They are looking at the whole picture.
Matthew: But VA says they look to how restrictive the disability is on your ability to work. But then as Carol was saying if you look at when it comes down to how they judge it, the back for instance, they care how much you can bend forward not how long it keeps you sitting down or how long you’re in pain or how little work you can do.
It is a little frustrating in that, even if the overarching principals are supposed to be the same on why they grant one and not the other, it is frustrating.
Carol: It is very frustrating. Once again, it’s not something you should drop because if you’re entitled to 100% from the VA then definitely I don’t know what’s going on with Social Security but you need to figure out, “What is it I’m missing in giving them as far as proof?” You shouldn’t give up.
Remember, you’re entitled to both. There’s a lot of confusion out there that people think, “If I get Social Security, then I can’t get VA.” Regular Social Security disability, regular VA benefits that are service connected, you can get both. If you are getting one, you probably should be getting the other one.
Matthew: Exactly. Another nuance is when a Social Security disability decision is based on one service connected disability and a non-service connected disability, sometimes veterans automatically think, “I’m not going to be 100% for VA because the reason why I’m not working is both of these disabilities.”
That’s not true. If you can’t get 100% through VA just through the regular scheduler and you’re not working, if one of your service connected disabilities has a lot to do with that, you should still apply. The VA is not allowed to deny you because the Social Security administration says you’re not working due to a non-service connected disability.
Unfortunately, there is more than one reason you can have to not be able to work. Just because your back is keeping you from working and that’s not service connected, but your migraines are service connected and they’re not keeping you from working, the VA has to look to those and see if the migraines themselves wouldn’t keep you from working.
Carol: Remember, not everybody knows what the law is. I have had a lot of people tell me, “Social Security connected me for my back, and therefore I can’t get VA because it’s really a pulmonary problem.” They have a very severe pulmonary problem, and that alone would keep them from working. You need to realize not everybody knows the law. If you’re entitled to these benefits, you should appeal and go forward and give them the proof.
Matthew: To expand on what Carol is saying, not everyone knows the law. Unfortunately, there are plenty of folks at the VA who do not appreciate this concept. The further you appeal, the more likely you are to get somebody who understands the fine details and the nuances of the law.
Thank you for tuning in. This is Matthew Hill and Carol Ponton. This is the Hill & Ponton Veterans Video Blog. Thank you so much.
Carol: Thank you.
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