Sen. Patty Murray calls for changes to Veteran Disability

Submitted by Daniel on

Veterans of the U.S. military could be entitled to receive compensation for any disability resulting (or worsened) by injuries or diseases related to their military service. Currently, those applying for Veterans’ disability benefits who experience multiple symptoms are required to undergo a doctor’s examination to determine what portion of each symptoms is related to their service-related disability. Last November, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) contacted the Secretary of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) asking that this requirement be eliminated.

According to the Senator, it can be extremely difficult for doctors to attribute, with a reasonable degree of certainty, what portion of symptoms is related to the disability, and thus, they often fail to provide this information. When this happens, the VA returns the examination report to the doctor for clarification, which delays the issuing of a final decision. Sen. Murray believes that removing this step from the process would help relieve the huge backlog of claims that result in long waits for needy Veterans who desperately need the assistance they’re entitled to.

Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) is a separate benefit program implemented by the U.S. Government and administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). To be eligible for Social Security disability, you’ll need to have worked long enough worked long enough and recent enough to have earned enough work credits (“quarters of coverage”). To receive SSDI, you’ll need to prove that you’re unable to work in any job for at least a year, due to injury or illness. The SSA also operates the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The standards for proving disability are the same as in SSDI, but there are no requirements in terms of past employment. However, as it is a needs-based program, you must have minimal income and assets to be able to receive SSI benefits. The SSA provides for expedited processing of disability applications from Veterans who were wounded prior to October 1, 2001, through their “Disability Benefits for Wounded Warriors” initiative.

Some Veterans could be eliglble for both VA and SSDI/SSI benefits. However, each agency has their own criteria in terms of proving disability, so being found disabled under one program does guarantee that you’ll be found disabled under the other. There are no outright restrictions against receiving both VA and SSDI/SSI benefits at the same time. However, if you’re receiving a VA disability pension, being approved for SSDI or SSI benefits could affect your eligibility. VA disability pensions are needs-based, and receiving Social Security payments could put your income above the established limit. In the alternative, receiving any type of VA disability benefits could put your income above the limit to receive SSI. However, there are no restrictions against receiving the fully-entitled amount of both VA compensation and SSDI benefits.

Should the VA requirements change per Sen. Murray’s suggestions, more Veterans will be able to receive the benefits they’re entitled to under both programs. It’s also likely that the number of SSI recipients will be reduced, as Veterans will become approved for VA benefits in a timelier manner, which could put many of them over the income limit for SSI. 

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