Question: Are Veterans eligible to collect both VA and SSA benefits at the same time? If so, is there a monthly cap?
Absolutely, Veterans who receive VA disability benefits may also receive SSA benefits, depending on the amount received from the VA and if they are approved for SSI or SSDI.
SSI: VA benefits will affect the SSI benefit amount. SSA classifies VA benefits as “unearned income,” since it does not come from paid employment. As such, it will be deducted dollar for dollar from the SSI federal payment amount, after the general exclusion of $20. (All SSI recipients are eligible for this exclusion, where the first $20 of earned or unearned income is not counted against their SSI payment.)
SSDI: Alternatively, SSDI benefits are not affected by unearned income through VA benefits.
Question: VA staff have access to veteran's VA medical record throughout local and remote data system. How do VA staff provide these records as part of the SOAR packet? What does VA require to document disclosures?
In recent years, DDS has developed the ability to quickly access VA medical records electronically, which should be triggered when you fill out the electronic application (specifically the SSA-3368 Adult Disability Report) and document that the applicant received treatment from the Veterans Health Administration. An electronically signed SSA-827 will also need to be in the file. When SSA transfers the case to DDS and it is noted that the applicant received VHA care, the system automatically sends an electronic request for records to VHA. The full process they use is here, and it's pretty interesting: https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0422505022.
For SSA, the only required release of information is the SSA-827. However, the VA may also require that the Veteran sign a form 10-5345 Request for and Authorization to Release Medical Records and Health Information.
Yes, members of the military do pay into the Social Security system and earn work credits during military service. SSA has a great publication about military service and work credits here: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10017.pdf.