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Will I Receive Social Security Benefits if the Veterans Administration Already Found Me Disabled?

 Posted on February 23, 2017 in Already Applied for Disability Benefits

b2ap3_thumbnail_Social-Security-benefits-Chicago_20170223-143347_1.jpgSocial Security Disability Insurance is not the only federal program that determines whether someone is “disabled.” For instance, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) awards benefits to veterans who are disabled due to a “disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service.” Does this mean a veteran who is disabled according to the VA also qualifies for Social Security disability benefits? Not necessarily.

Social Security and the VA may define disability in similar terms, but they have completely separate review procedures. Social Security regulations, in fact, expressly state that it is not bound by any other agency's disability determination.

Recently, Social Security announced a slight modification to this rule. For claims made after March 27, 2017, Social Security says it “will not provide any analysis” of another agency's disability decision. However, Social Security “will consider all of the supporting evidence underlying” the other agency's decision. In other words, any medical evidence presented to one agency may also be considered by Social Security.

Army Veteran Must Go Through Second Social Security Hearing

Unfortunately, these separate review processes often result in lengthy delays for disability applicants. Recently the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from Illinois and two other states, rejected a U.S. Army veteran's request for an immediate award of Social Security disability benefits. Previously, the VA found the applicant was “70 percent disabled and unemployable” due to injuries he suffered while on active duty. As a result, the VA awarded him 100 percent disability benefits.

However, Social Security declined to award disability benefits under its own rules. A “non-examining” doctor who reviewed the applicant's medical records argued his injuries were “not disabling.” Based on this, a Social Security judge afforded “no weight” to the VA's separate disability determination.

Social Security later acknowledged before a federal district court that it failed to consider the medical evidence relied on by the VA. It asked for an order remanding the case for further consideration. The applicant, who had already waited several years by this point, objected and sought an immediate award of benefits.

The judge sided with Social Security. The applicant appealed, but the Seventh Circuit upheld the judge's decision. The appeals court noted there is an important difference in how Social Security and the VA assess disability: While the VA's rules resolve any “reasonable doubt” regarding a disability in favor of the applicant, Social Security's rules do not. In other words, Social Security may assess the same medical evidence as the VA and still find the applicant is not disabled.

A Social Security Disability Lawyer Can Help

It may seem ridiculous that two agencies could reach different conclusions about a person's ability to work, but such is the reality of dealing with Social Security. If you need help with your own claim from a Chicago disability benefits attorney, schedule a consultation with Pearson Disability Law, LLC today.




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