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Does Social Security have to consider a VA decision when determining disability?

by | Aug 9, 2022 | Social Security Disability, Veterans Disability Benefits |

Since 2017, it has been established in the Social Security Regulations that SSA does not have to assign any weight or even review a disability determination made by the Veterans Administration.

Social Security Regulation 20 C.F.R. § 404.1504 states:

Decisions by other governmental agencies and nongovernmental entities.

Other governmental agencies and nongovernmental entities—such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, the Department of Labor, the Office of Personnel Management, State agencies, and private insurers— make disability, blindness, employability, Medicaid, workers’ compensation, and other benefits decisions for their own programs using their own rules. Because a decision by any other governmental agency or a nongovernmental entity about whether you are disabled, blind, employable, or entitled to any benefits is based on its rules, it is not binding on us and is not our decision about whether you are disabled or blind under our rules. Therefore, in claims filed (see § 404.614) on or after March 27, 2017, we will not provide any analysis in our determination or decision about a decision made by any other governmental agency or a nongovernmental entity about whether you are disabled, blind, employable, or entitled to any benefits. However, we will consider all of the supporting evidence underlying the other governmental agency or nongovernmental entity’s decision that we receive as evidence in your claim in accordance with § 404.1513(a)(1) through (4).

A recent 7th Circuit case underscores Social Security’s requirement to review all supporting evidence used in a VA determination.  Mandrell v. Kajakazi, No. 21-1121 (7th Cir. 2022), held:

There is no reason we can see to silo off the finding at Step 3 that “the claimant has a severe mental impairment as of October 2015” from the limitations that he found, even assuming that her mental impairment fell short of satisfying anything that appeared on the agency’s list. And the RFC says nothing at all about the triggering effect being around men had on Mandrell, even though the reason for that reaction is plain. Neither the ALJ (in his RFC) nor the vocational expert took that problem into account. And the fact that Mandrell was able to make it through one psychiatrist’s appointment with a calm affect says nothing. She may well have found that to be a safe environment, unlike the world at large or a workplace. Finally, even though the Social Security Administration is not bound by the VA’s assessment of Mandrell’s disability, the underlying medical evidence on which the VA relied is just as relevant to the social‐security determination as it was to the VA.  

Emphasis added.  This is a great reminder that VA disability benefits and SS disability benefits are very distinct programs, but that SSA must review all pertinent medical records, including those generated during a VA disability claim.

Gardberg and Kemmerly represents Social Security and Veterans disability claims throughout the Gulf Coast. Please call one of the experienced disability representatives at Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. today at 251-343-1111 for a free consultation. Gardberg & Kemmerly specialize in helping the injured and disabled.


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