According to the United States Census Bureau, almost 3.8 million US Veterans currently experience some form of disability. Of these, around 1.1 million have a VA disability rating of 70% or higher, meaning their condition prevents them from working or living normally.
Although VA benefits are designed to provide monthly supplements in proportion to your disability, some veterans with severe conditions require extra assistance. In this case, Social Security disability benefits may be an option. Veterans can qualify for both VA benefits and Social Security disability insurance (SSDI).
Continue below to learn how you may qualify for SSDI while receiving VA benefits.
Requirements For Social Security Disability For Disabled Veterans
Although VA benefits and SSDI are both government programs, their requirements and benefits vary slightly. This is because:
- VA benefits are awarded on a percentage-based system: SSDI, on the other hand, is only awarded to people who qualify as “totally and permanently disabled” (similar to a VA rating of 70% or higher)
- VA benefits are only available to disabled veterans: SSDI is available to all Americans who require assistance for their disabilities, making a program a bit pickier when deciding who does/doesn’t qualify.
- Disability for VA is determined by doctors for the VA Disability program: SSDI can not mimic this evaluation for the entire American populace, leaving applicants to provide as much specific certified evidence as possible when making their case.
To see if your condition meets the higher requirements of SSDI, you can consult the Blue Book found on the SSA’s main website. This book lists all conditions and the requirements for each needed in order to qualify for disability benefits.
The book is broken up into sections depending on the type of disorder — for example, amputations would be listed under Section 1.00 “Musculoskeletal System”, while traumatic brain injury would be listed under section 11.00 “Neurological Disorders”.
While some entries are rather simple and only require a diagnosis to qualify, others can be more broad, complicated, or filled with uncommon medical terms. Before applying, be sure to contact your physician for updated tests and medical records to discuss your qualifications.
Benefits of Receiving Social Security Disability as a Disabled Veteran
Most US residents see nothing but benefits after qualifying for SSDI. However, veterans in particular receive special perks from the application process onward as a “thank you” for their selfless service on behalf of the nation.
- An expedited application: Most applicants experience a lengthy claims process that can take anywhere from a few months to over a year.
However, all military service members who became disabled while on active military service on or after October 1, 2001 receive an accelerated application process. This means, unlike most, you could receive your benefits decision in a matter of weeks after your application.
- Increased chance of qualification: For veterans with a VA rating of 70% or higher, the SSA is much more likely to award benefits. This is because the Veterans Association (another government program) has already recognized you as severely disabled and unable to work, further supporting your need for benefits.
- Continued military pay without affecting eligibility. Most SSDI recipients are prevented from earning money through work because it may disqualify them from disability benefits. However, many veterans receive military pay from non-work activity, which does not count towards benefit disqualification.
- Medicare and TRICARE benefits awarded simultaneously. Medicare, which is awarded to both disabled and retired Americans, is one of the best government-provided health care plans in the country. While TRICARE does benefit millions of veterans, Medicare awarded through SSDI provides more coverage. This doesn’t mean TRICARE benefits go away — in fact, TRICARE continues to cover extra costs by functioning as your secondary insurance.
Are There Limits to the Amount of Benefits You Can Receive
Your ability to receive disability benefits is not tied to income, though you do need to have enough work credits to apply.
Anyone who has paid Social Security taxes can apply for disability benefits, and your ability to qualify is tied to the number of work credits you have earned over the years. Generally speaking, you need to have 40 work credits and 20 of those credits must have been earned in the past ten years leading up to when you were diagnosed with your condition.
The number of work credits needed is based upon your age, though, as you earn four credits each year you earn a certain amount of money. The amount changes each year; in 2019, the amount is $5440. Younger applicants will need fewer than 40 credits to apply.
There is no income limit to apply for disability benefits, but in order to qualify for benefits you cannot be able to perform work. There are incentive programs through the SSA that allow you to work while receiving benefits, such as the Ticket to Work program. It is important to talk with the SSA if you want to work while disabled as this can jeopardize your ability to receive your disability benefits.
Using the RFC If You Do Not Meet Blue Book Requirements
The Social Security Administration will use their set of medical guidelines, commonly known as the Blue Book, to determine whether your condition qualifies you for disability benefits. If you are found to be able to work, either in a modified setting at your current job or in another position that accommodates your condition, then you will not be eligible for benefits.
In some cases, your medical condition will not be enough to meet the medical guidelines listed in the Blue Book, but you are still unable to work. This is where the residual function capacity form (RFC) will come into play.
The RFC determines the maximum amount of work that you are able to perform given your condition. Your doctor will be the one to complete the form, and this is beneficial for your case because it is an opportunity to present information specific to your condition directly to the SSA.
Your doctor is likely the one who diagnosed you and was the one to develop your treatment plan, so he or she can explain how you are actually doing and what issues have come about that prevent you from performing certain tasks.
You should inform your doctor of your intent to file an application for disability benefits as early as possible so that the RFC can be completed and submitted quickly. In many cases where a diagnosis is not enough to qualify for benefits, the RFC is the most important document in the claim.
If you know that your condition might not be enough to qualify you for benefits, then you should build your case with the RFC in mind. Be sure to include all supporting medical documentation that supports the claims made in your RFC so that the SSA will be able to make their decision.
Statute of Limitations for Disabled Veterans When Applying for Both VA Benefits and Social Security Disability
There is no statute of limitations applicable for veterans’ SSDI benefits, or other VA benefits. However, that doesn’t mean you should delay your application as once you have filed it there would be at a minimum several months before a decision is reached.
Once your application has been approved, your benefits will be backdated to the date when you applied. However, if your claim is denied there is a deadline set for filing an appeal. You have 12 months from the date found on the denial letter to file an appeal, called a Notice of Disagreement (NOD).
You should file your claim as soon as possible while you still have the evidence clear in your mind. The sorts of medical evidence you will require includes anything related to your injury or illness such as a physician’s reports, X-rays, and medical test results.
Are VA Benefits Considered Income For Disabled Veterans Applying SSI?
The SSA categorizes VA benefits as “unearned income,” because the money does not come from paid employment. Anyone receiving SSI will not have $20 either earned or unearned income counted when calculating an SSI payment.
Tips for Applying for Social Security Disability and VA Benefits As A Disabled Veteran
- First of all eligibility for VA disability benefits are not based on income.
- You may qualify to receive both VA disability benefits and Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) together.
- If you believe you are eligible for VA benefits you must provide evidence that shows your disability is due to your time serving in the military. The amount you get paid will depend on the extent of your disability.
- SSDI benefits are a Social Security Administration (SSA) benefit, not directly linked to VA. The veteran has to show proof that s/he has a condition that is either physical or mental that affects their ability to do a job that pays more than $1,260/month and that the disability has or is expected to continue for at least 12 months.
- If VA benefits are more than $1,260 per month the veteran may not be eligible for SSDI benefits.
- There is a link between qualifying for VA benefits and SSA benefits and that is the process for applying for either SSDI or SSI can be prioritized if the veteran has a “Veteran rated 100% P&T” when beginning the application process for SSI/SSDI. The veteran should include the VA rating notification letter in the application forwarded to the SSA.
- Because SSI is needs-based any extra income from VA benefits will have an effect on any cash benefits but as the SSA classes VA benefits as “unearned income,” because it isn’t the result of paid employment it will be deducted from the SSI federal payment amount, after excluding the first $20. Every SSI recipient is eligible for the $20 exclusion when the SSI payment is calculated.
Evidence Disabled Veterans Need For Their VA Disability Claim
You will need to provide medical evidence that proves you have a mental or physical disability that is ongoing and prevents you from working and carrying out everyday tasks. The injury or illness must have taken place while serving in the military.
The documents you will need are:
- your DD214 document;
- your treatment records while in service;
- medical evidence provided by your current physician including the diagnosis, x-rays, CT scans, medical test results and anything else that proves you are disabled.
Evidence Disabled Veterans Need When Applying For SSDI or SSI Claims
- previous medical records which show the commencement date of the disability;
- current medical records;
- details of current medications, dosages, reasons for taking them and results from their use;
- complete list of hospitals where treatment has been administered and the treatment received;
- receipts for medical treatment received;
- any unpaid invoices for medical treatment;
- list of physicians who have provided treatment including current contact details;
- complete work history over the last 15 years, including duties undertaken in each job;
- details of any workers’ compensation received including reason for and amounts paid;
- your original birth certificate, copies are not accepted;
- your social security card;
- names and birth dates of your spouse and minor children;
- dates of marriages and divorces;
- contact details of a contactable friend or relative that can respond on your behalf;
- check or savings account details including the bank’s 9 digit routing number.
How Disabled Veterans Can Start the Social Security Disability Application
SSDI applications can be started whenever you are ready by visiting the SSA’s main website. Here, you can also find FAQs and paperwork lists to assist you during the process.
Aside from normal medical and financial papers, beside to have the following prepared before applying:
- Form DD 214 (if you were formally discharged)
- Proof of military pay or workers’ compensation
- Any military medical records that support your disability (medical tests, physician’s notes, therapy documentation, etc.)
If you require assistance filling out your application, you may want to consider a free consultation with a local disability attorney.
Their experience can further simplify the process by organizing paperwork, keeping in contact with the SSA, and helping fight on your behalf to get you the benefits you deserve.
How an Attorney Can Help
If you speak with a disability attorney who has worked with veterans to get their VA and Social Security disability entitlements, this will help to ensure you have provided all the documentation needed to support your claim. Often there are delays due to insufficient documentation being provided.
Your attorney will have experience and knowledge about how the SSA works and should know what is required to win both a VA and SSD claim. Processing claims for any disability payments often take months and even in some cases years for a decision to be reached. You can normally expect to receive an answer more quickly if you ask an attorney to work on your behalf.
Most attorneys, but not necessarily all, do not require any upfront payments for their services, so you will only need to pay legal fees once your claim(s) have been settled. If your claims are denied you may not be asked to pay any legal fees.
If you are unsure of the terms of hiring an attorney, check with the attorney before going through the hiring process. This will ensure you aren’t unduly worried about an unexpected bill being posted to you.
As many claims are denied the first time round this shouldn’t discourage you, as your chosen attorney can work through the appeal’s process with the hope of winning a favorable settlement on your behalf sooner rather than later. Complete the Free Case Evaluation today!