Posts in:January, 2019

Can I Receive SSD and VA Disability at the Same Time?

Posted January 25, 2019 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

It is not uncommon for military veterans to have both Social Security Disability and Veterans (VA) Disability claims at the same time. An award of VA disability benefits, also known as service-connected disability compensation, is not based on income, so you can receive VA disability compensation and Social Security Disability insurance (SSDI) at the same time. However, veterans should know that these programs, though both run by the federal government, differ in terms of eligibility, the burden of proof required, and the amount of benefits you receive.

One major difference between SSDI and VA disability is that you do not need to be totally disabled in order to be eligible for VA compensation. In fact, most veterans who receive VA compensation do not receive a total disability rating. Veterans can receive a compensable rating as low as 10%, and can even have a rating as low as 0%. Social Security Disability, however, does not compensate disability claimants based on only a partial loss of employability. You are either disabled or not disabled under Social Security’s strict definition of disability.

VA approval does not necessarily help get Social Security disability. In the past, if you were the recipient of a very high VA rating (70% or higher), your chances for success on your Social Security disability claim were quite good. In 2017, the Social Security Administration published new regulations saying that Social Security will no longer take VA approvals for disability compensation into account when deciding whether to grant disability benefits. In addition, written denials or hearing decisions from Social Security will no longer provide any information on whether the agency considered the VA’s approval in its determination.

Social Security will, however, consider any evidence that the VA took into account in making its own disability determination. The VA and the Department of Defense (DoD) share medical records electronically with Social Security, which will use the evidence in evaluating its applications for SSDI. Social Security may also use VA or DoD evidence to expedite the processing of claims for Wounded Warriors and veterans with a 100% disability compensation rating.

Social Security approval also does not necessarily help get VA benefits. If you are disabled under Social Security’s rules, the VA may not give Social Security’s decision much weight, since it’s not usually clear whether the disability is based on service-connected or non-service disabilities. Many veterans have a wide array of both types of disabilities, and the VA can be quick to attribute total disability to a host of non-service disabilities. Also, a veteran must be able to show specifically which disabilities prevent employability. To convince the VA that the veteran is unemployable and that his or her disability was caused by service-connected impairments, a veteran may need to hire a vocational expert to specifically attribute the unemployability to service-related disabilities.

Although the VA will give a Social Security disability decision no special deference, the VA is required to consider Social Security records. Medical records in your Social Security file could provide key evidence for your VA claim. The VA should be provided with the entire Social Security disability file and decision; in fact, the VA has a duty to request it.

If you or someone you know is unable to work due to a medical condition, please contact us for a free evaluation of your claim!

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Social Security Disability Benefits and Unemployment Benefits

Posted January 18, 2019 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Many people wonder if they can collect unemployment benefits while applying for Social Security Disability. After all, it can take months or even years for the Social Security Administration to approve a claim for Social Security Disability benefits.

Usually, Social Security Disability and unemployment benefits are mutually exclusive because they serve different populations. Unemployment benefits are paid to people who are “willing and able” to work but are simply unable to find a job. On the other hand, Social Security Disability benefits are for people who are unable to work. Claiming both disability and unemployment benefits at the same time is unusual, but it is possible in some cases.

If you feel that you may be able to work or you may be able to hold down a part-time job that generates less than $1,000 per month in income, you may want to apply for both unemployment and Social Security Disability benefits. In doing so, you are not stating that you are able to hold down a full-time job, but you are also not stating that you are unwilling to seek employment. You are merely stating that your disability may prevent you from working full time and obtaining substantial gainful employment and that you need unemployment benefits to compensate for your lack of employment while you seek out job alternatives.

It is, however, important to understand that some states require you to be willing to seek out full-time work in order to receive unemployment benefits. If you are applying for Social Security Disability, you are stating that you are unable to perform full-time work. If the unemployment office discovers that you were actually unable to work because of a disability while you were receiving unemployment benefits, you may be responsible for paying all of those benefits back and you may even be faced with charges of disability fraud.

Many Social Security Disability representatives advise against collecting unemployment benefits when applying for Social Security disability because the Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) who work for Social Security have been known to look askance at people applying for both benefits at the same time, or even deny the disability claims of those who are collecting unemployment benefits. While it is Social Security’s official stance is that receiving unemployment benefits does not prevent someone from receiving Social Security Disability benefits, a disability claims examiner or ALJ can consider the unemployment filing as one of the factors in considering whether an applicant is disabled.

If you or someone you know is unable to work due to a medical condition, please contact us for a free evaluation of your claim!

By: Thomas Klint of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Substantial Gainful Activity for 2019

Posted January 14, 2019 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

To be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, a person must be unable to engage in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). A person who is working and earning more than a certain monthly amount is ordinarily considered to be engaging in SGA. The amount of monthly earnings considered as SGA depends on the nature of a person’s disability. The Social Security Act specifies a higher SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals, whereas federal regulations specify a lower SGA amount for non-blind individuals. Both SGA amounts generally change every year with the cost of living adjustment (COLA).

The monthly SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals for 2019 is $2040. For non-blind individuals, the monthly SGA amount for 2019 is $1220.

Remember that SGA relates only to the money you earn from working. Passive income, such income from investments or retirement funds, unemployment income, alimony, or child support are not considered SGA. However, passive income may affect your eligibility for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.

If you or someone you know are unable to work due to a medical condition, please contact us for a free evaluation of your claim!

See: (SGA amounts by year) (definition of SGA) (more on SGA)

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®