November 8

Understanding the Role of VA Disability Ratings in Social Security Disability Claims

As Veterans Day approaches, it's an opportune time to delve into an important aspect of Social Security Disability claims for veterans. One area that often causes confusion is the role of Veterans Administration (VA) disability ratings in Social Security Disability claims.  

Many are surprised to learn that the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not directly factor in the VA’s disability rating when evaluating a claim. The reason for this lies in recent changes. 20 C.F.R. Section 404.1520c says the Agency "will not defer or give any specific evidentiary weight, including controlling weight, to any medical opinion(s) or prior administrative medical finding(s), including those from your medical sources.”  

This means that while the VA's disability rating is a significant and authoritative determination, the SSA is not going to give it any predetermined weight in its own evaluation process. This is primarily because the SSA and the VA operate under different definitions and criteria for assessing disability.  

However, this doesn't render VA ratings irrelevant in Social Security Disability claims. While SSA won't automatically adopt the VA's findings, those findings still represent valuable medical evidence. They can be particularly influential in illustrating the credibility of the veteran’s statements regarding their symptoms and how those symptoms impact their daily activities and ability to work, as outlined in 20 C.F.R. Section 404.1529.  

Here's how you can use this information in your practice:  

1.     Educate Your Clients: Explain to veteran clients that while their VA rating won't automatically sway their Social Security Disability claim, it is still a crucial piece of evidence.  

2.     Use as Supporting Evidence: Incorporate the VA rating as part of a broader collection of medical evidence, underscoring its significance in corroborating the veteran's reported symptoms and limitations.  

3.     Focus on Symptom Impact: Leverage the VA rating to detail the specific ways in which the veteran’s condition impacts their daily life and work capacity. 

4.     Comprehensive Documentation: Ensure that all relevant medical records, including those related to the VA rating, are thoroughly compiled and presented to the SSA. 

This Veterans Day let's not only honor our veterans but also arm them and ourselves with the knowledge to navigate the complexities of Social Security Disability claims effectively.

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