It is a common mistake to think that if you are approved for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance benefits) by SSA (Social Security Administration) you will automatically be eligible for TDIU (a total disability rating based on employability of the individual) through the VA. If you can’t work, you can’t work, right? Unfortunately for vets, that isn’t the case.
To be eligible for either TDIU or SSDI, a vet must generally (there are some slight exceptions) be unable to work due to physical and/or mental disabilities. But, while VA and SSA have similar rules for deciding whether a person can work, there are also some important differences. So, even if SSA says that you can’t work, VA may disagree.
Some key differences:
- Medical conditions – VA only considers your service-connected disabilities for TDIU. SSA considers all disabilities.
- Past work – If your disabilities keep you from doing your past work, that is enough for TDIU. For SSDI, if you can’t do your past work but you can do another job, you may not be eligible.
- Age – VA cannot consider your age in a TDIU determination. Your age is one of the most important factors in your SSDI claim.
Despite the differences, receiving SSDI may help you get TDIU.
VA’s rules say it must take SSA’s decisions into consideration if they are related to your service-connected disabilities, and you make VA aware of them. Once you notify VA that SSA has records related to your TDIU claim, VA must attempt to get those records. SSA’s records may include medical reports or opinions that are helpful in proving your TDIU claim. Importantly, if an SSA judge does find that a service-connected condition alone prevents you from working, a VA judge who disagrees has to provide an explanation for the disagreement.
A word of caution, in some cases SSA’s records could damage your VA claim. For example, if your SSA records include negative medical opinions VA has to consider those too. Also, if SSA finds you can’t work mainly because you have a lot of disabilities that aren’t service connected, it may be harder to prove that your service-connected conditions alone keep you from working. It is important to talk to your attorney or representative to develop the best strategy of dealing with these issues.
If you need assistance with a TDIU claim, we are here to help. Call Bosley & Bratch at (800) 953-6224 or complete our free veterans benefits case evaluation form.