Veterans & Social Security Disability
If you are a veteran who is disabled, you might be eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits, regardless of how your disability developed. Veterans Administration Benefits and Social Security Disability Benefits are both government programs for disabled individuals, but there are several differences between the two programs. We break them down below.
Qualifying for Benefits:
To receive benefits from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, you must be a disabled veteran, and your disability must be related to your active-duty service. The VA will assess your disability and give you a rating on a scale from 0-100% disabled. The VA awards benefits for both partial and total disability, meaning that you can still work full-time while collecting VA Disability Benefits.
The Social Security Administration does not offer partial disability. You are either disabled, or you’re not. They define disability, basically, as being unable to perform work to a level of substantial gainful activity (see here for an explanation of SGA). To qualify for SSD Benefits, you must be completely disabled and unable to earn income; however, the disability can be the result of multiple medical issues and does not need to be tied to military service.
How Benefits are Calculated:
For VA Disability Benefits, you are paid based on how severe your disability is. This is where the disability rating comes in. Someone with a 30% disability rating would receive less benefits than someone with a 70% disability rating.
SSDI Benefits are calculated based on your earnings history in both the military and civilian positions. Again, the Social Security Administration does not evaluate the severity of your disability. They do not use a rating system like the VA. (See here for more info on SSDI eligibility).
Does Qualifying for One Automatically Qualify You for the Other?
No. It is important to note that qualifying for one does not automatically qualify you for the other. Because the two programs have different applications and different definitions of disability, you won’t qualify for Social Security Disability just because you receive VA Disability.
As of March 2017, the SSA no longer takes VA approvals into consideration when making a decision. However, when making a determination, SSA will consider all of the evidence considered by the VA.
If you are approved for SSDI first, the VA might not take that decision into consideration because it doesn’t prove your disabilities are service-related.
While being on VA Disability doesn’t automatically qualify you for SSDI Benefits, there are certain assets to applying as a veteran:
Expedited application process
Continued military pay, which won’t affect your eligibility.
Simultaneous coverage through Medicare and Tricare
Important to Note:
You can receive both VA Disability and SSDI at the same time, and the received benefits from one will not affect the amount of benefits you receive from the other. However, it is important to note that both the VA and the SSA have second benefit programs that can be affected by other resources.
The Social Security Administration also has the SSI program - or Supplemental Security Income. If you are a veteran with disabilities and receive VA Disability Benefits, but do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, you may apply for SSI. SSI is income dependent. This means that the benefits you receive from the VA will lower the amount of benefits you receive from the SSI program.
Similarly, the VA also has a VA Pension Program. If you are a veteran with disabilities that are not related to your active-service, you may qualify for a VA Pension. However, like the SSI program, VA Pensions are income dependent. This means that if you win SSI or SSDI benefits while receiving a VA pension, your new Social Security Disability Benefits could disqualify you for your VA pension.
If you or someone you know is a veteran with disabilities, please reach out to us at Kapor | Davis & Associates for assistance with the Social Security Disability process. We have helped many veterans get the benefits they deserve. We can answer any questions about your eligibility, and help you get started on the process.
We thank you for your service.
Happy Veteran’s Day.