It is possible to receive both VA disability and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) if you are a veteran. However, receiving one benefit may affect the other, so it’s important to understand their differences.
VA disability benefits are available to veterans who suffer an illness or injury during their military service or a condition aggravated by their service. VA disability benefits are tax-free and provide financial assistance for veterans’ daily living expenses and medical care.
SSDI benefits are available to those with disabilities who have paid into the Social Security system via payroll taxes. An individual’s work history and income are the qualifiers for eligibility and don’t specifically relate to military service.
How Dual-Benefits Affect Benefit Amounts
If a veteran receives VA disability and SSDI, the SSDI amount reduces because the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers VA disability benefits as income.
Still, veterans can receive both VA disability and SSDI benefits if they meet certain requirements. For example, the veteran may have a VA disability rating of 100 percent, and the SSA considers this individual to be “permanently and totally disabled.”
Some veterans may even be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or veterans pensions, providing additional financial assistance. However, SSI and VA pensions are needs-based, and veterans must be below certain resource or income caps.
Veterans with a disability rating of 70 percent or more are often unable to work. However, even those veterans with a rating below 70 percent disability may still be eligible for SSDI and SSI.
Qualifying for VA Disability Benefits
There are four specific criteria a veteran must meet to qualify:
- The veteran’s medical record includes a medical diagnosis of a disability.
- Evidence of an in-service injury, disease, event, or aggravation relates to their diagnosis.
- The veteran’s disability is service-connected, and medical evidence links their service to their condition.
- The veteran is actively coping with symptoms from their condition.
Qualifying for SSDI Benefits
The SSA has a higher threshold for qualifying for SSDI, you are either considered disabled or not, and it’s a federal program for all US citizens. Comparatively, VA disability pay qualification is much easier, and they maintain a percentage-based system of disability severity that links to military service and discharge status. There are two qualifiers to receive SSDI. An individual must provide both:
- Evidence of a mental or physical health condition limiting the ability to maintain gainful employment.
- Evidence this condition has lasted or will last for at least 12 months or end in death.
Each of these qualifiers has sub-set qualifications defining gainful employment and medical evidence for a specified condition that meet the standard using the SSA’sBlue Book.
VA disability and SSDI benefits are different programs, each with a distinct application process. Because the impact of VA disability and SSDI benefits on each other can be complex, veterans who consider applying for both benefit types may want to seek the advice of an accredited veterans benefits attorney or disability attorney. Lawyers specializing in veterans and SSA benefits understand one benefit’s potential impact on the other and recommend the best course of action.
The processing time for VA disability and SSDI benefits can vary depending on claim complexity, evidence requirements, and the number of claims each agency is processing.
Generally, VA disability claims tend to have a shorter processing time than SSDI claims. A fully complete application can take three to five months before a decision. Any unresolved claim after 125 days is considered a VA backlog. However, once a veteran receives approval, the first payment will arrive within 15 days, either by check or direct deposit.
SSDI benefits approval generally requires a second application, as most first-time claimants receive a denial. First-time applications for benefits take, on average, three to six months, with the possibility of denial and appeal. Wait time is due to the many applications filed annually. Applicants begin receiving benefits after approval, starting six months after their established onset date of the disability. This wait time occurs because of the mandatory five-month waiting period.
How an Attorney Helps with Claims
It’s crucial to find an accredited veterans benefits attorney or disability attorney to receive the most compensation possible. They can:
- Help you understand eligibility requirements and necessary medical and financial documentation.
- Collect and submit evidence required through medical history, employment records, and other evidence to support your claim. These records may include medical opinions from treating physicians and other experts to demonstrate the extent of your disability.
- File appeals and represent your case in hearings before the VA or SSA after a first-time claim denial. Appeals may involve preparing and presenting additional evidence, cross-examining witnesses, and making legal arguments that bolster the claim.
- Advise you on ways to maximize benefits under the VA and SSDI systems, including structuring any settlement or award to avoid reducing benefits and help navigate other potential issues.
- Provide ongoing support after a claim approval to navigate the VA and SSDI systems with any additional claims or appeals. They communicate your rights and responsibilities under the current laws.
A disability attorney plays a critical role in securing VA and SSDI disability benefits. Working with an experienced attorney increases the chances of success and protects your rights throughout the claims process.
It’s important for veterans to carefully consider their options and understand the potential impacts of receiving both VA disability and SSDI benefits. Veterans should seek the advice of a qualified veterans benefits lawyer or disability attorney to navigate the system and make informed decisions that lead to the best outcomes.
This article offers a summary of aspects of veterans planning law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, please contact our Albuquerque office at (505) 830-0202.