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With the recent return of veterans from Afghanistan, the topic of benefits for wounded vets is on the radar of American society right now. The wounds of returning vets are both seen and unseen. It is good to know that the Social Security Administration gives all veterans a priority review for disability benefits. After all, military personnel fight for our freedom because freedom is not free. Honorable Americans stand up and make sure that the rest of us can enjoy the benefits of a prosperous and safe country. Let’s discuss how this is carried out and the difference between the Veterans Administration and Social Security Administration disability review process. 

Wounded Warriors and 100 percent P&T veterans are eligible for expedited Social Security Disability review. A Wounded Warrior is anyone who served after October 1, 2001, and has a service-related disability. Alternatively, if you have a 100 percent disability rating from the Veterans Administration, you have a 100 percent Permanent and Total disability.

Incidentally, Veterans Administration math applies to P&T disability claims. In this world, one plus one does not always equal two. Things get a bit complicated here, so strap yourselves in and stay sharp. Assume Tim was near an IED blast. As a result, has a 50 percent disabling brain injury and a 50 percent disabling back injury. Tim is only 75 percent disabled for P&T purposes. Because of his brain injury, he is 50 percent healthy. Then, half of 50 percent is 25 percent.

Unfortunately, expedited Social Security Disability review for a veteran is not a guarantee of benefits. In many cases, expedited review simply means a faster “no.” That’s largely because the VA has a different attitude toward disability benefits than the Social Security Administration. The VA essentially presumes that applicants are entitled to benefits. The SSA presumes that applicants are not entitled to benefits but must go through the review process just like everyone else. The only special recognition for a veteran is to expedite the review process, not change or alter the criteria to receive the benefits. So, this is why you need a Memphis SSI disability lawyer from the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm to advocate for you through this process.

How Does the SSA Define “Disability?”

The VA uses a rating system to define the D-word. The more symptoms the veteran has, and the worse these symptoms are, the higher the disability rating. The SSA is different. Disability is all or nothing. The applicant must be unable to maintain Substantial Gainful Employment, and the condition must either be fatal or be expected to last at least a year.

This different standard is just one reason that a veteran may qualify for VA disability but not SSD, or vice versa. Furthermore, a VA disability rating could help or hurt your Social Security Disability application, depending on the additional facts.

Common Overlapping SSA/VA Claims

“Expedited” is a relative term. The Social Security determination process is often longer than the VA disability process. A 2017 law streamlined the VA disability appeals process. On the other hand, the SSA determination process has remained largely unchanged since the program began in the 1930s. 

Usually, the more common the disability is, the faster a claim moves through the system. A Claims Examiner looks at an application and thinks “I’ve seen this before” instead of thinking “What on earth is this?” The most common such claims are:

  • Arthritis: Osteoarthritis, which is basically a wear-and-tear condition, is the most common form of arthritis. An injury or overuse erodes cartilage, so when the joint moves, bone grinds on bone. Certain risk factors, mostly age, gender, and family history, contribute as well. But for SSA and VA purposes, these risk factors are largely irrelevant. 
  • Heart Disease: Sometimes, there is a direct service-related connection. A coronary artery disease presumption applies in Agent Orange exposure claims. A secondary service-related connection could apply as well. For example, many brain injury victims, especially PTSD victims, also develop heart disease.
  • Degenerative Disc Disease: In many ways, this condition is a lot like arthritis. DDD is a wear-and-tear condition that affects the spine. Basically, the spine is a chain of small bones that are separated by discs. After extensive bending or kneeling, which many veterans must do, the discs erode and either pinch nerves or inflame in an arthritis-like way.
  • Respiratory Illness: DRLD, or Deployment-Related Lung Disease, is very common among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Many of these incidents are related to the open-air burn pits that the DoD used for waste disposal in these wars. The VA has finally recognized that, in some cases, there is a connection between DRLD and burn pits. 
  • Mental Illness: This very broad category includes conditions like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The symptoms, such as flashbacks and depression, make it almost impossible to function in the everyday world, especially on a bad day.

Incidentally, PTSD is a physical brain injury. Extreme stress changes brain chemistry. The part of the brain that controls emotional responses gets bigger, and the area of the brain that controls logical responses gets smaller. So, if you are struggling with PTSD, it’s not because you are defective or being “sensitive”. It’s because you are injured.

The Expedited Review Process

Here is the good news for veterans! There is no waiting period for Social Security Disability benefits which are related to a military service injury. Applicants may apply while they are in physical therapy, while they are in the hospital, or even when they are in a foreign country.

Technically, the SSA red flags such claims and fast tracks the process. However, as a practical matter, it’s usually best for Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm (SSI law firm near me) to get things moving in the right direction if you live in the mid-south region. That’s especially true in the COVID-19 era. Many SSA bureaucrats and processing clerks work remotely with new structures in application processing. 

To further expedite your request, you will need to have access to the following documents along with your application:

  • Birth certificate or other proof of legal residency or citizenship,
  • Most recent tax return,
  • DD 214, proof of military pay, and associated records,
  • Bank account and emergency contact information,
  • Information about spouse and dependents, if any, and
  • Medical records related to your disability.

Military pay doesn’t necessarily derail your Social Security Disability claim. Even if it meets the aforementioned poverty/income guidelines, military service usually is not SGE in this context.

Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and other state Disability Determination Service (DDS) offices include vocational and medical experts who review your application and assess its merits in these areas. Applicants must normally submit to in-person medical examinations. If you need a special accommodation or need to reschedule your appointment, let Heermans Law Firm know well in advance, so we can make the proper arrangements. We take pride in treating our veteran clients with pride and respect. 

In terms of disability healthcare, there is a 24-month waiting period for Medicare eligibility. The rules regarding TRICARE, which is a Medicaid supplement that covers most Medicare deductibles and copays, are rather complex. Usually, eligible veterans may apply for TRICARE during a special twelve-month enrollment window.

For more information about the SSA disability benefits process for veterans, or if you are a veteran and have been denied your disability claim, contact the SSI lawyers near you at Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm. We provide a FREE disability benefits evaluation and you can give us a call or text 24/7 at (901) 244-0057.


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