Disability Decision in Social Security and the effects on veteran disability
The SSA found that you are unable to secure any job in the national economy. Is that disability decision binding on the VA? It is clear that a favorable rating decision by the VA is entitled to evidentiary weight in a Social Security hearing.
In Thomas E. McCartey v. Massanari, 298 F.3d 1072 9th Circ 2002, the Court agreed that a VA disability rating is entitled to evidentiary weight in a Social Security hearing. See Chambliss v.Massanari, 269 F.3d 520, 522 (5th Cir.2001) (per curiam) (VA disability rating is generally entitled to “great weight” and “must be considered by the ALJ”).
“We so conclude because of the marked similarity between these two federal disability programs. Both programs serve the same governmental purpose — providing benefits to those unable to work because of a serious disability. Both programs evaluate a claimant’s ability to perform full-time work in the national economy on a sustained and continuing basis; both focus on analyzing a claimant’s functional limitations; and both require claimants to present extensive medical documentation in support of their claims. Compare 38 C.F.R. § 4.1 et seq. (VA ratings) with 20 C.F.R. § 404.1 et seq (Social Security Disability). Both programs have a detailed regulatory scheme that promotes consistency in adjudication of claims. Both are administered by the federal government, and they share a common incentive to weed out meritless claims
SSA decisions regarding a veteran’s unemployability are “pertinent,” but not controlling, in a VA disability claim. Murincsak v. Derwinski, 2 Vet. App. 363 (1992). Because the SSA and the VA define unemployability somewhat differently, the SSA’s decision will not always mirror the VA’s.
The major difference between the two disability programs is whether the SSA’s decision was founded on service-connected disabilities. Because it is not always clear whether the SSA’s decision is based on service-connected or non-service connected disabilities, there are sometimes cases where the VA will not give the SSA’s determination as much weight, as the VA rules prevent the VA from giving weight to non-service connected disabilities or age, while both factors often play prominent roles in the SSA’s decision. The VA cannotsiply ignore a favorable decision by the SSA. It must determine whether the SSA made its decision based on the Veteran’s Service Connected Disability or non – Service Connected Disability in Quartuccio v. Principi, 16 Vet. App. 183, 187-88 (2002), the Court held that, in a psychiatric disability benefits case where SSA benefits had been granted for a psychiatric disability, a remand to obtain Social Security records was required where the “possibility that the SSA records could contain relevant evidence … cannot be foreclosed absent a review of those records.”