Veterans are often subject to disabilities after a long service in the military. These disabilities might impede their transition into civilian life and may prevent them from finding employment or working efficiently in their current jobs. Their military service makes them automatically eligible for disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This does not mean that the disability benefits offered by the Federal Government do not apply to disabled veterans.
Besides receiving VA benefits due to their disability, veterans may also enroll in the disability assistance programs offered by the Social Security Administration, namely Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplementary Security Income (SSI). The SSDI assistance programs can be offered as a substitute for VA disability compensation or jointly with VA assistance.
If veterans are eligible to receive SSDI with VA assistance, Medicare can enhance the health benefits offered by the VA. In contrast to SSDI, claimants can continue working if the VA rates their disability. For an SSDI claim to succeed, one must abide by the work credit restrictions according to the SSA rules.
Veterans who are disabled to such an extent that the VA rates their disability at 70% or more are often unable to function properly in their employment because of their conditions and impairments. In addition to receiving VA benefits, more than 1.9 million veterans whose disabilities are rated at 70% or more.
Most of these veterans will likely receive VA disability benefits and SSDI. The VA and SSA have different definitions and application processes, and veterans may receive SSA benefits while awaiting approval for VA benefits. The sections below define and detail the SSDI and VA disability benefits, their differences, and how they work together. If you have applied for SSDI benefits and are awaiting the SSA's decision on your claim, read our article on how long it takes to get approved for SSDI.
Workers with disabilities are eligible for SSDI if they cannot work because of their disability. They receive SSDI benefits based on their income and employment history. The requirements for SSDI are similar to those for VA disability benefits. The main difference between SSDI and VA benefits is that you must not be capable of working to qualify for SSDI.
In order to qualify for SSDI and VA benefits, you do not need to earn a certain amount of income. You are considered earning "non-work" income if you receive VA disability benefits. In other words, VA disability compensation is available in addition to SSDI to eligible veterans. SSDI is available under SSA's definition of disability and the medical requirements set by the agency, no matter how much VAdisability payment you receive against your VA rating.
VA Benefits Explained
To receive benefits for service-connected disabilities from the VA, claimants must demonstrate the existence of disabling impairments that either originated or worsened because of their service in the military. VA compensation rate depends on a graduated scale from 10% to 100%, in increments of 10%, depending on the extent of their disability.
Other benefits unrelated to the veterans' disabilities, such as pensions, are paid to veterans whose service coincides with wartime periods, who possessed limited assets and financial resources, and who were discharged honorably. If you need a lawyer for your VA disability claim, check out our article on finding a VA-certified lawyer near you.
VA Disability Benefits Qualification Criteria
It is necessary for you to meet the following four qualification criteria to receive disability benefits from the VA:
- Your medical record indicates that you have been diagnosed with a disability.
- Symptoms of your diagnosis can be linked to in-service events, injuries, diseases, or aggravations.
- The medical evidence establishing the medical nexus between your disability and your service validates the service-connected nature of your disability.
- The symptoms of your condition are actively affecting you.
SSDI Qualification Criteria
Social Security Disability Insurance has a higher eligibility threshold. The VA disability payment process is much easier than applying for SSDI. No percentage-based approach is in place at the SSA, like at the VA. The SSA might either declare you disabled after analyzing your situation or not. However, since SSDI is not exclusive to veterans, there is no requirement that your disability is connected to or be caused due to military service and is not influenced by how you were discharged. You should provide both of the following to be eligible for SSDI.
- Evidence that you cannot sustain gainful employment due to your physical illness or condition.
- Evidence that you have been disabled for 12 months, your condition might last for a minimum of a year or will result in your death.
If you have a disability, you can find out if you are eligible for assistance in the Social Security Administration's Blue Book. The odds of becoming eligible for SSDI are good if you are suffering from a Permanent and Total (P&T) disability. You may also be eligible for SSDI expedited processing if you have a P&T disability rating. If a veteran meets all SSDI requirements and is fully disabled, SSA will usually approve their benefits.
VA Application Process
Veterans could receive disability benefits if their military service caused or worsened a disease or injury. Even if you were an active-duty soldier many years ago, you are still eligible for benefits if you apply as soon as possible. Veterans can file a disability compensation claim in several ways.
- Veterans On-Line Application or VONAPP is available for requesting VA disability benefits.
- You can visit the VA Forms Website, find and fill out the Application for Veterans Compensation and Pension form, and mail it to your local VA office.
- You can also complete the application completed over the phone at 800-827-1000. TDD is available to those who are deaf or hard of hearing at 800-829-4833. You can reach them at 412-395-6272 if you live outside the US.
- The local VA office in your area can guide you through the application process.
You can contact your state's veterans' service office for assistance. A veterans' organization or a lawyer specializing in disability laws can also assist you with preparing your application. Once you realize your disability, you should apply at your earliest convenience to benefit from an early effective date. If you still need to get all the documents ready, submit your application. One can always resubmit the application at a later date.
SSDI Application Process
SSDI applications can be filled out online or over the phone at 1-800-772-1213. In addition to medical information, you might have to provide income records. Your application will be reviewed by the SSA after you submit your supporting documents. Several months may pass before all steps are completed.
Receiving Both SSDI And VA Disability
There is a distinction between the Veterans Administration and the Social Security Administration. The application process for and approval of disability benefits varies by program. VA disability compensation and SSDI are unaffected by each other, which is why veterans might receive both benefits.
Veterans accounted for nearly 14.5% of all the SSA recipients in 2022, with over eight million veterans receiving Social Security benefits that year. Since SSDI and VA disability benefits are determined using different qualifying criteria, being a recipient of VA disability benefits does not necessarily guarantee qualification for SSDI. Your SSDI application can be expedited if you have a 100 percent disability rating from the VA.
Pros Of Receiving Simultaneous Benefits
There are certain benefits of receiving both SSDI and VA benefits simultaneously. Some of them are detailed in the following sections.
Quicker Processing Of SSDI Application
The VA speeds up the SSDI claim processing for veterans with a 100% P&T rating. To expedite your claim, write Veteran 100% P&T in your online application and share your VA rating notification letter with the SSA. Irrespective of what your P&T rating is, you can still get expedited processing of your claim through the SSA's Wounded Warrior program. Veterans disabled on active duty after October 1st, 2001, are eligible for this program.
SSDI And VA Benefits Do Not Offset Each Other
You may see reduced Social Security payments due to workers' compensation or other public disability benefits. If you qualify for SSDI assistance and VA disability benefits simultaneously, each program will pay your full entitlement.
Differences Between SSDI And VA Disability
The following sections will highlight the major differences between the SSDI and VA disability programs.
Main Eligibility Criteria
Individuals must abide by the mandatory service requirements the Department of Veteran Affairs set forth to qualify for VA assistance. Their injuries or mental illnesses must have developed or worsened during their service. If they had pre-existing conditions, those conditions must have deteriorated to qualify for VA disability benefits.
An individual's path to illness or injury is no concern to the Social Security Administration. Work history determines whether they qualify for SSDI. Claimants cannot claim Social Security benefits until they have worked in "covered" employment for a certain period. The nature of their work may be a job or self-employment.
Medical Qualification Criteria
The Social Security Administration determines whether you are entitled to disability benefits if your disability or condition is so serious that it prevents you from working for at least a year or might lead to death. As far as SSA is concerned, it may either categorize you as disabled or not disabled; there is no in-between.
Disability ratings are based on a percentage scale that measures how much a condition interferes with your health and functioning. Various injuries are assigned different percentages based on the extent of the injury. For example, the extent of an amputated limb or how many fingers were lost due to the injury.
Multiple disabilities resulting from your service are combined by the VA using a complex formula. Multiple conditions can result in a rating of 100% disability, even if none are completely disabling independently. You may also receive a 100 rating, which is total but not permanent if the VA believes that your condition will improve eventually.
Benefits Per Month
Depending on the amount they have contributed towards their SSDI over the years. Your disability is not evaluated or determined based on a sliding scale. According to SSDI rules, the maximum amount eligible veterans can get each month from SSDI in 2023 is $3,627. However, SSDI benefits average around $1,358 per month. Depending on when you file your SSDI claim, you may also be eligible for retroactive pay for up to 12 months.
On the other hand, the maximum amount one can receive each month in VA disability for a 100% rating is $3,621.95, $1,663.06 for a disability rating of 70%, and a minimum of $165.92 for a 10 percent rating. A VA disability compensation rating determines what level of compensation you will receive. This rating is comprised of a sliding scale with increments of 10% that range from 10% for minor conditions to 100% for major conditions or total disability.
The VA's usual method for determining benefits has one exception. Individual Unemployability benefits that pay equivalent to a 100% VA rating are available to veterans who lose their ability to work because of their service-related disabilities and cannot support themselves financially but do not receive a 100% VA rating.
If you're a veteran who has been suffering from a disability and you're unable to work, don't wait to get the care you deserve. Apply for both SSDI and VA disability benefits, and with the right documentation and evidence, you can qualify for both benefits and have a better chance of getting the care you need to live a full life.
Head over to disability Help if you want to read more about different programs aimed at helping disabled people with financial assistance. If you feel that your current VA rating does not justify the severity of your disability, read our article on how to increase your VA disability rating.