It’s a myth that veterans who are receiving VA disability pay can’t receive Social Security disability benefits, or that a veteran must choose between VA disability and Social Security disability benefits. Veterans can receive both VA and Social Security disability benefits, and there are nearly one million veterans that do.
If you’re receiving VA disability benefits, those benefits were awarded because you have a service-connected illness or injury. Social Security disability benefits are awarded because of a medical condition that makes it impossible for you to work. Thus, as long as you meet the requirements of one of the conditions the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers disabling, and you expect that you won’t be able to work for at least a year, you can apply for Social Security disability benefits.
Conditions That Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits
The SSA has a list of more than 200 medical conditions that it considers disabling. They’re listed in the Blue Book, which you can search through on the SSA’s website. You must submit medical documentation including a letter of diagnosis and supporting medical records showing you meet the requirements for the condition you have that are listed in the Blue Book.
Some of the conditions that commonly affect veterans and qualify for disability benefits are:
• Respiratory Issues
• Back and muscle problems
• Hearing loss
• Vision loss
• Heart disease
Your VA medical records and diagnosis can be used to support your application for Social Security disability benefits. When you went through the process of being awarded VA benefits, you should have gotten a full copy of all your medical records. If not, you can get a copy of your medical records from the military treatment facility where you last received treatment.
Qualifications for Social Security Disability Benefits
No matter what condition you have that qualifies you to receive disability benefits, the medical evidence that you have is crucial to your approval. For example, if you’re applying for disability benefits because you have severe depression you will need to show documentation that you have at least five of these symptoms:
- depressed mood
- decreased interest in almost all activities
- appetite disturbance (overeating or poor appetite) resulting in a weight change
- sleep disturbance (oversleeping or insomnia)
- difficulty thinking or concentrating
- feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- thoughts of suicide or death, and/or
- increased physical agitation, such as pacing or hand wringing, or a slowing of reactions and physical movement, including speech.
Then, you would also need to show that you have an extreme limitation in one of these areas, or a severe limitation in two or more of these areas:
- remembering, understanding, or applying information (the ability to understand instructions, apply new knowledge to tasks, learn new things, and use judgment in decisions)
- interacting with others (the ability to use socially appropriate behaviors)
- persisting, concentrating, or maintaining pace in performing tasks (the ability to complete tasks), and/or
- managing or adapting oneself (having practical personal skills like paying bills, practicing good hygiene, cooking, dressing, and shopping).
In addition to medical evidence like CAT scans, PET scans, MRIs, blood tests, and X-rays, you can include psychological assessments, reports from social workers, or other mental health assessments as evidence.
Help Applying For Social Security Disability Benefits
Veterans can apply for Social Security disability online through the SSA’s website or make an appointment at a local SSA office. Bring all of your ID and documentation to the appointment and someone at the SSA will help you fill out and file your application.