14 Sep How Veterans Can Receive SSDI and VA Benefits at the Same Time
Submitted by Director of Outreach for Disability Benefits
Not everyone is aware that veterans hurt in the line of duty can receive disability benefits from both the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Veteran’s Affairs (VA) simultaneously. The programs are run by separate organizations, but both were designed to help people in need.
Eligibility Criteria for Social Security Disability Insurance
Most men and women who have worked will qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). You can qualify for SSDI as a disabled veteran if you were engaged in full-time employment for at least five out of the past 10 years, although this will vary depending on your age. The SSA does not expect a 20-year-old soldier to have worked as much as a 40-year-old veteran. To medically qualify for SSDI, you must submit detailed medical records proving that your impairment or injury is expected to:
● Last at least one year, or be terminal
● Leave you unable to do any work you have skills to perform
It is important to apply for SSDI benefits soon after becoming disabled, as waiting too long could compromise your eligibility.
If you are already receiving VA benefits due to a disabling condition at the time you apply for SSDI, your chances of a successful SSDI claim are greater. This is because the VA’s definition of disability and the SSA criteria for disability are similar. The SSA will expedite the applications of veterans who meet one or both of the criteria below:
● Permanent and complete VA disability rating of 100%
● Becoming disabled while on active duty after October 1, 2001
How Much Income You Can Earn Through SSDI Benefits
Your VA benefits and SSDI benefits will not affect one another. The SSA calculates your monthly benefit payments by reviewing your past income in both civilian and military jobs, as well as when you served. If you served prior to 2001, special “work credits” are added to increase the value of their earnings for benefit calculation purposes. (Credits are no longer supplemented after 2002.) Other guidelines are as follows:
● Disabled military personnel who served between 1978 and 2001 are credited $100 for every $300 earned.
● Service between 1957 and 1977 entitles a veteran to credits equal to $300 for each quarter of military income.
● Those who served prior to 1957 receive credits of $160 a month in earnings.
The maximum SSDI payment is $2,639 per month in 2016. This can change year-to-year depending on inflation.
Differences Between the Social Security Administration and Veteran’s Affairs Disability Processes
Although SSDI and VA disability benefits are both intended to ease the financial hardships of disabled individuals, there are key differences between the two programs. The most obvious one is that VA benefits are only for veterans of a U.S. military service. Another is that Veteran’s Affairs calculates your benefit payments based on the severity of your disability. Unlike the SSA, your prior income does not factor into the equation.
Other differences include:
● The VA grants benefits to veterans who are partially disabled, while the SSA requires applicants to be completely disabled. If you have a 10% disability rating from the VA, you almost certainly will not qualify for SSDI benefits.
● The VA uses a ratings system to evaluate the extent of an applicant’s disability, and the SSA does not.
● The SSA assigns more weight to your doctor’s opinion if he or she is your “treating physician.” With VA applications, approval is not based entirely on medical evidence: the decision makers review your entire file.
For more information about SSA and VA benefits and how to apply for SSDI benefits as a disabled veteran, visit the SSA’s website ( www.ssa.gov ). If you’d like to apply, you can complete the entire process online. If you prefer to speak to someone in person, you may also contact the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.