Coordination of Benefits
According to an article by Muller et al. (2004), in recent years, there have been pushes to have more coordination between the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) disability compensation program and Social Security Administration (SSA)’s disability programs. This has been done to help improve the interaction between the two organizations in order to help best serve veterans by helping to improve access to Social Security disability benefits for military personnel from 2001 onwards. Part of the interaction and collaboration between the two agencies is required by law, and includes medical evidence and hospital records, disability determinations, and benefit receipt and payment amounts. Also, both SSA and the VA are required to consider one another’s disability decision in their own determinations. It is important to note that the VA and SSA use different classification systems for establishing impairment. Due to all of this, it would be an important aspect for a TDIU case whenever it is applicable for the veteran (Muller et al, 2004).
Conditions For TDIU and SSDI
According to a report by Moulta-Ali, U. (2012), in a comparison between the VA and SSA programs, there are differences to be found with what is required to be found as disabling between the two agencies. For SSA, there is a 5-step process. The individual’s income has to fall below SGA, the condition or conditions have to be expected to last longer than 12 months or result in death, the condition(s) must meet SSA medical listings, the veteran should be unable to perform their past work, and the condition would not allow them to work in other jobs that exist within the national economy. To have a TDIU rating for the VA, there has to be either a service-connected condition which is found to be rated at least 60% by the standards or several service-connected disabilities that are found to have a combined rating decision at least 70%.
The Important Role That Vocational Experts Play
What does this mean for Vocational Experts? Vocational Experts are frequently used for both TDIU cases as well as SSA cases, providing information about employment and the workforce that is specialized. In order to give a proper vocational opinion on whether a veteran should be found unable to work, evidence that has been obtained for both agencies needs to be included in a file review for a Vocational Expert. Without it, there cannot be a complete file review, as the opinion provided has to be based off of medical facts as well as lay statements from the veteran, friends and/or family. While an interview with the veteran or letters written by individuals who know the veteran provide important day to day information on what is going on, medical documents are essential. This is especially true because of the differences between the two agencies. There must be a chronology of the service-connected condition(s) to show the impact of the service-connected condition(s) on the veteran’s life and their ability to work. Also, what is examined when it comes to a veteran’s ability to work is different, such as age not being a factor for TDIU and being a factor with SSA. Because of these things, a veteran may receive benefits from SSA, but be denied TDIU from the VA. The veteran’s condition has not changed, of course. However, the rules and requirements for being approved are far different. Without a proper amount of medical information, the Vocational Expert’s opinion may be lacking as well.
The interaction between the Social Security Administration and Department of Veteran’s Affairs has been something that has been occurring for many years now. While this aids Veterans in getting all the support and services they need, this also provides some challenges for Vocational Experts due to the differences between SSA and the VA as well as what each organization looks at in order to determine disability. Without adequate information being provided to the vocational expert regarding medical history, the TDIU reports provided by vocational experts may not be able to be completed fully.
Moulta-Ali, U., & Panangala, S. V. (2015). Veterans’ benefits: The impact of military discharges on basic eligibility. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.
Muller, S.L., Early, N., & Ronca, J. (2014). Veterans Who Apply for Social Security Disabled-Worker Benefits After Receiving a Department of Veterans Affairs Rating of “Total Disability” for Service-Connected Impairments: Characteristics and Outcomes. Social Security Bulletin a74 (3).