Social Security Disability for Veterans and Service Members
Military members who suffer a debilitating injury or illness arising from their service may apply for benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Service members who have a serious disability may also apply for Social Security Disability benefits. Unfortunately, the process of applying for SSD benefits is so complicated that many veterans simply give up, out of frustration.
Even when the VA finds that a service member has a permanent and total (100% P&T) disability, that’s not enough evidence for the Social Security Administration to determine disability. The SSA uses its own system for determining disability, and a service member must provide volumes of documentation proving the extent of one’s disability.
SSA offices are supposed to prioritize what are known as “Wounded Warrior” applications, when they are informed that the applicant is an injured service member. But because of the backlog of cases at local offices, it’s still taking a long time to move cases through the system. And many initial SSD claims are denied, without much consideration of the evidence.
If the VA has found you have a permanent and total disability but you’ve been unable to get SSD benefits, we may be able to help you. John R. Colvin has years of experience helping people with the SSD application process, and with their successful appeals of SSD denials. If you’ve been turned down for benefits, don’t give up hope – with legal help, you might still get the benefits you deserve.
Call our office today to request your free consultation, at 1-931-962-1044.
Forms and Paperwork
To apply for SSD, the SSA will require you to provide the following documents:
- Original or certified copy of your birth certificate (or, if foreign-born, proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residency)
- Form DD 214, if discharged from military service
- W-2 form or tax return from last year
- Proof of military pay or workers’ compensation pay
- Spouse’s and minor children’s Social Security numbers
- Checking or savings account number, if you have one
- Contact information for a person who can be reached, if you are unavailable.
You’ll also need detailed medical records from any medical provider – military or civilian – that has treated you for your disability. That’s where many veterans encounter difficulty.
The SSA requires medical providers to complete a form that’s seven pages long – a Medical Source Statement of Ability to do Work-related Activities. Your VA medical case file may be hundreds of pages long, and VA doctors don’t necessarily have time to sift through that file to find the information the SSA requires. If doctors take too long to complete that form, you may miss an important deadline and become ineligible for SSD benefits.
The Appeals Process
Most initial SSD claims are denied, and when that happens, applicants may request a reconsideration. That means someone in the Disability Determination Services office who did not review your original claim reviews your SSD application and makes a decision, either affirming the original decision or determining you meet the criteria for disability. About 5 to 10 percent of applicants are granted disability benefits on review.
If the reconsideration doesn’t find in your favor, the next step is to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. At this stage of the appeal, an applicant may be more likely to see a favorable outcome. An ALJ will usually consider the VA’s disability determination in making a decision about SSD benefits.
The appeals process can be exasperating, and it essentially weeds out anyone who might be trying to “game the system.” But it also hurts people who are most in need of and most deserving of benefits.
When your disability interferes with your ability to travel to hearings or to collect the documentation you need, continuing with your appeal may seem like it’s too much of an effort. But when you have legal representation, your attorney can appear at hearings on your behalf and work to obtain the records the SSA requires.
Get Help With Your Claim
The VA offers support and services for veterans needing to apply for military disability benefits. But when you apply for SSD, you’re pretty much on your own. You don’t have to be, though.
At the law office of John R. Colvin, we don’t practice VA law – but we do help veterans with their SSD claims. We charge nothing up front for our services, as our fee would come from any SSD payments you receive. If the VA has issued you a determination of 100% P&T but you’ve been unable to get SSD benefits, give us a call at 1-931-962-1044, or fill out our online contact form, to request your free consultation.