Veteran Opportunities: How to Qualify for Disability in Florida

November 24, 2020 in

Did you know that as a disabled veteran in Florida, you could qualify for benefits from the VA and from Social Security? Florida is a friendly state for the 1.5 million veterans who live here. Unfortunately, disability benefits programs operate at the federal level, and the rejection rates are very high.

Find out how to qualify for disability in Florida and how to increase your chances of a successful claim.

How to Qualify for Disability in Florida as a Veteran

As a veteran living in Florida, you have two options for qualifying to receive disability benefits. You may be eligible to get disability payments from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Depending on the nature of your disability, you may qualify to receive benefits from one or both of these federal agencies.

To be eligible for veterans’ disability benefits through the VA, you must have a disability-related to your service in the military. Physical and mental health conditions qualify.

Eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits depends on two main factors. First, you must have paid enough taxes into Social Security. Then, you have to meet the SSA definition of disability.

Qualifying for Veterans Disability with the VA

To qualify for veterans’ disability benefits through the VA, you first need to prove that you have a diagnosed physical or mental health condition. Then you have to prove that your disability resulted from an injury, disease, or event that happened during your military service.

Proving Your Disability

The VA automatically accepts that your disability is service-related if you meet one of these conditions:

  • Illness resulting from time as a prisoner of war
  • Illness resulting from contact with toxic chemicals or other hazardous materials, like Agent Orange
  • Chronic illness that appears within a year of your discharge

If you don’t fall into one of those categories, you’ll need to prove a link between your disability and your military service. You’ll need to submit your service treatment records and your separation papers. You can also use other medical records and supporting statements from family, friends, or other people who can tell the VA about your condition.

Filing Your Claim

You can usually file your claim online. You can also file by mail or in person at a regional VA office.

After you file a claim, the VA will assign a Veterans Service Representative to your case. If you need additional evidence, you’ll receive a notice telling you what else you should submit. The VSR will recommend a decision, and then the VA will make the final determination.

If the VA determines that you’re disabled, they will give you a disability rating for each eligible disability. Percentages range from 10% to 100% disabled. The VA uses your disability rating and information about your dependent family members to set your monthly payment amount.

As of September 2020, the VA took an average of 131.5 days to make claims decisions.

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance

Even if your disability isn’t directly connected to your military service, you can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance. You need to qualify under both the technical and medical requirements.

Technical

The first requirement that determines your eligibility for SSDI is technical. You need to have paid enough Social Security taxes over your working career. If you worked five of the last ten years and paid Social Security taxes, you probably meet the requirement.

Earning at least 20 work credits out of the past 40 that was possible also usually meets the threshold. In 2020, you earn one credit for each $1,410 of earnings. Four credits per year is the maximum. The number of earnings you need for credit increases slightly every year.

Medical

Qualification under the second requirement depends on the SSA’s definition of a disability. The SSA defines a disability as a medically physical or mental condition that prevents you from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. The medical condition must last continuously for at least a year or be expected to result in death.

Qualification Process

The SSA uses a five-step process to determine if you qualify for SSDI. First, they evaluate the amount of work you’re doing. In 2020, you have to earn less than an average of $1,260 per month to meet the threshold.

The second step looks at whether your medical condition is severe. You need to prove that your condition has a significant impact on your ability to work.

The third step determines if you meet one of the conditions that the SSA lists as qualifying for disability. The SSA website has a list of conditions that Social Security considers so severe in and of themselves that you qualify automatically as disabled. Proving that you meet or equal a listing is very difficult. You’ll need medical evidence and testimony from your doctor.

If you don’t meet or equal a listing, the SSA will evaluate what your physical and mental capabilities are with your condition. This evaluation tells you your residual functional capacity (RFC).

The fourth and fifth steps consider if you are able to do your past work or if there is some other work you could do with your RFC. If the SSA decides that you’re not able to work, they will qualify you for disability.

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

You can apply for disability benefits online or over the phone. You can make an appointment to apply in person at a Social Security office. You’ll need to provide information about your work history and medical history. An interview is also part of the application process.

It usually takes between three to five months to get a decision. However, SSA offers faster processing for veterans who became disabled while on active duty.

How to Get the Best Outcome from Your Disability Claim

As a veteran, you deserve full compensation for the sacrifices you’ve made for our country. Unfortunately, filing a disability claim with the VA or the SSA is a complicated and time-consuming process. The refusal rates for each agency are very high.

LaBovick Law Group knows how to qualify for disability in Florida. Our experienced disability lawyers can handle your application process or file an appeal if your claim was rejected. We only get paid if we win your case. We’ll fight to be sure you get the benefits you deserve.

Contact us today and let’s start the process.