The Social Security Administration also has programs setup to assist disabled veterans. SSA has a needs-based program called Supplemental Security Income (SSI or Title 16) and has a disability insurance program called Social Security Disability (SSDI or Title 2).
SSI benefits are available for individuals who are totally disabled and have limited income and resources, much like Pension benefits through the VA. One important note is that eligibility for SSI is not based on an individual's work history, which means that even where you do not have a sufficient work history to obtain disability benefits, you can still be potentially eligible for SSI.
SSDI on the other hand is based on the claimant's work history. Where an individual has sufficient work quarters (obtained by paying Federal Insurance Contributions Act or FICA taxes) he/she can receive benefits if he/she is unable to perform substantial gainful activity (work) due to a disability.
Proving the Claim
Much like a claim before the VA, an individual attempting to obtain disability benefits through SSA has the burden of proving that he/she is unable to perform substantial gainful activity. SSA's process is also non-adversarial but during the early stages SSA will obtain medical opinions from doctors who have supposedly reviewed the medical records. These doctors' opinions often state that the individual applying for SSA benefits has the physical and/or mental capacity to perform full time competitive employment. Therefore, any statements detailing specific physical or mental limitations obtained from the claimant's own doctors can be extremely helpful in contradicting the opinions of the non-treating SSA physicians.
Like the VA, SSA also has affirmative duties regarding processing and development of the application for disability benefits. However, unlike the VA, SSA does not typically perform a lot of development even when they are asked politely for assistance. Therefore, in a claim for disability benefits with SSA, developing and submitting your own evidence can make a big difference in the outcome.
McElreath and Stevens, LLC is a law firm of attorneys who are both experienced in claims for Social Security disability benefits and accredited by the VA to represent veterans seeking to obtain service connected and/or non-service connected benefits with the VA. With offices in Atlanta and Cartersville, Georgia, we are able to represent veterans and other disabled individuals throughout the state of Georgia, the Southeast and across the nation. Feel free to contact us if you have questions regarding disability benefits.