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 of SSDI
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 SSDI as a 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.
Starting the 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.