At Goss & Fentress, we have years of experience representing veterans in Social Security disability claims. Our disability practice began in the late 1970’s, and included representing those who were physically and/or mentally injured by the war in Vietnam. We consider it an honor to have had the chance to render this service over the ensuing years and their conflicts.
Veterans who apply for and receive disability benefits from the Veterans Administration may also qualify for Social Security disability benefit payments. While the standards for receiving benefits through these separate federal programs are different, there is significant overlap in medical conditions that cause a veteran to be unable to work.
While veteran’s disability benefits are based on cumulative ratings of partial disability stemming from separate medical conditions, where the Veterans Administration has determined that a veteran is 100% disabled by a single or a combination of physical and/or mental impairments, that determination has taken on a new importance – at least within the jurisdiction of the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In late 2012, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals considered the case of a Vietnam War combat veteran who had been struggling for years to work while suffering from post-traumatic stress. The Veteran’s Administration found him to be 100% disabled by his condition. The Social Security Administration refused to award disability benefits. The Court stated that “because the purpose and evaluation methodology of both programs are closely related, a disability rating by one of the two agencies is highly relevant to the disability determination of the other agency”, and that “in making a disability determination, the SSA must give substantial weight to a VA disability rating”.
The Social Security Administration is bound to follow the law as interpreted by federal courts in whose jurisdictions these veterans reside.
Since this ruling, we have urged a number of administrative law judges to apply this controlling standard to veterans’ claims they are asked to consider. We are having mixed success, as some Social Security Administration judges continue to resist this application of law. We have recently filed a case in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of a 100% disabled veteran, in whose claim the Social Security administrative law judge – stating only that the programs have a different regulatory structure – refused to respect the Veteran’s Administration determination that the veteran is disabled. We are hopeful that the federal courts will intervene to prevent what we feel is an injustice to this career service member.
We believe that all Social Security claimants’ attorneys appreciate the opportunity to fight for the rights of veterans who have honorably served this great country. We at Goss & Fentress certainly are happy to join the battle when our veterans ask for our help.