Find Out How You Can Qualify for SSDI While Receiving VA Benefits

Submitted by Bryan on

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. 

VA Disability Rating and Social Security Disability Benefits

Military action oftentimes leaves those who have served in active service (i.e., were active duty in the military) left with a range of disabilities. VA has developed a rating system which it uses to determine the relative severity of the disability of concern, as well as to calculate the amount of compensation paid to the veteran. The VA assesses only those disabilities that have been caused by active service, i.e., those disabilities that are connected to and/or linked to being active service.

To rate a service person’s disability, the VA uses a similar, but different, method compared to that utilized by the Social Security Administration (SSA) when they assess applicants’ eligibility for disability benefits. The assessment utilized by the VA results in a rating figure in percentage terms that ranges from 10% (least severe) to 100% (most severe). If there is no chance of recovery, and the veteran has been totally disabled by their condition, then their rating would be termed 100% P& T, meaning permanent and total.

Despite the fact that VA’s rating system is not the same as the assessment made by the SSA, the rating established by VA may be used as evidence to support an application for disability benefits through the SSA. However, it is important to note that the VA rating itself—even one of 100% P&T—is not a guarantee of disability benefits paid by the SSA. Nonetheless, a VA rating can help the SSA to establish whether the disability is severe enough to prevent the veteran from finding suitable employment.

When it is part of the evidence submitted to the SSA, a 100% P & T rating—although it is not a guarantee of disability benefits approval being paid by the SSA—is most likely going to mean an expedited assessment, i.e., that the applicant with such a high VA rating will have their application processed a lot faster than normal.

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.

You may be wondering what conditions qualify for disability? 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.

The VA disability compensation program pays benefits to veterans who contract a disease or are injured during their military service. The VA benefits are determined after evaluating and rating each service related disability (injury or disease) with a percentage value from 0 to 100. It is easier to win VA benefits if the assessed rating is 70% or more. Once this has been calculated a payment is made.

As well as VA benefits, veterans may also be entitled to receive SSDI particularly if they have been rated at 70% or more for the VA benefits. This is because the Veterans Association has already determined you are too disabled to work.

You can still receive Social Security disability benefits while receiving VA benefits. Continue for more on how to qualify.

Veterans' Eligibility for SSDI

SSDI benefits are available for both veterans and other workers. They are calculated based on work credits accumulated throughout the veteran’s or other worker’s working life.  However, SSDI is only awarded to people who qualify as “totally and permanently disabled” (similar to a VA rating of 70% or higher). The disabled veteran needs to check to see if their condition meets the requirements for SSDI. This can be found in the Blue Book compiled by the SSA.

This book contains a list of all conditions and the requirements needed in order to qualify for disability benefits. Most veterans who qualify for SSDI have their claim fast tracked as a reward for the time they have sacrificed representing their country.

A veteran’s claim for SSDI does not affect their VA benefits and each benefit is applied for separately.  Any veteran who has paid Social Security taxes may apply for SSDI independently of VA benefits. You need to have accumulated 40 work credits and 20 of those need to have been earned in the last 10 years leading up to the date you were diagnosed with your disability.

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.

Benefits include:

  • 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.

Can Veterans Get Social Security Disability with PTSD?

Social Security disability benefits are available for Veterans with PTSD. In order for veterans to qualify for Social Security disability benefits with PTSD, the PTSD needs to be so severe that if will force you to be out of work for at least one year or longer.

For veterans to get Social Security disability with PTSD, their condition and medical evidence to back it up needs to match the SSA’s 12.15 listing, which is, Trauma- and stressor-related disorders.

The SSA considers PTSD a disability and satisfies that listing. In order for a veteran to get Social Security disability with PTSD, you need to have medical documentation of all the following:

  • Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or violence;
  • Subsequent involuntary re-experiencing of the traumatic event (for example, intrusive memories, dreams, or flashbacks);
  • Avoidance of external reminders of the event;
  • Disturbance in mood and behavior; and 
  • Increases in arousal and reactivity (for example, exaggerated startle response, sleep disturbance)

You need to have medical information of the following above as well as extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning which include:

  • Understand, remember, or apply information
  • Interact with others
  • Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace
  • Adapt or manage oneself

If you cannot meet the above section regarding the mental functioning, if you are a veteran with PTSD, you get still get disability if you meet the medical documentation part, as well if your PTSD is “serious and persistent;” which means you have a medically documented history of this condition over a period of at least 2 years as well as evidence to support it.

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.

You are able to get disability and VA disability at the same time.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. 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.

You are able to get disability and VA disability at the same time.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.

Can You Get VA Disability and Social Security?

Veterans are able to get VA disability, as well as Social Security disability benefits at the same time. Veterans must have to qualify for both programs separately.

 If the VA grants you disability, it does not mean that you will get approved for Social Security Disability or, vice versa. The VA grants VA disability based on various degrees of your disability.

You can be found only 20% disabled by the VA and still be approved to receive VA benefits. Social Security disability benefits are only awarded for those the SSA deems are 100% disabled.

If you have a 100% VA disability rating, your chances of also receiving Social Security disability benefits are greatly increased.

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.

How to Apply for VA Benefits and SSDI

Eligibility for VA disability benefits is not based on income and you may qualify to receive both VA disability benefits and Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) at the same time.

If you are sure you are entitled to receive VA benefits you need to provide evidence which shows your disability was caused while you were employed by the military. This includes a diagnosis of your medical condition and a report written by your doctor. The medical evidence you provide needs to prove that you have a mental or physical disability that is ongoing and stops you from working and carrying out everyday tasks. The documents you will be asked to include in your application are:

  • your DD214 document;
  • proof of the treatment you received while in service;
  • your doctor’s medical report;
  • results of x-rays, CT scans and medical tests that prove you are disabled.

The amount you get paid will depend on the extent of your disability.

When applying for SSDI benefits you should include the percentage rating of your VA disability as provided in the VA notification letter, proof of your accumulated work credits, your diagnosis from your doctor and the listing of your medical condition in the SSA Blue Book. If your rating is 100% the SSA will prioritize the processing of your claim.

Tips for Applying for Social Security Disability and VA Benefits As A Disabled Veteran

  1. First of all eligibility for VA disability benefits are not based on income.
  2. You may qualify to receive both VA disability benefits and Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) together.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 $1,550/month and that the disability has or is expected to continue for at least 12 months.
  5. If VA benefits are more than $1,550 per month the veteran may not be eligible for SSDI benefits.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 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.

You Could Earn Up To $3,822 Per Month. Find Out If You Qualify Today!

If you speak with a disability attorney or disability advocate 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.

You are able to get disability and VA disability at the same time.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 you are denied disability, 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!

Additional Resources

Blog comments

Nancy Cole (not verified)

I work part time and collect

I work part time and collect SS benefits. I earned $3.00 over last month. What will happen?

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 11:05 Permalink

In reply to by Nancy Cole (not verified)

Hi Nancy,

Hi Nancy,
It may not affect your benefits for that month, however you may want to contact your local SSA office regarding this, they may adjust your benefits by $3.00 for the next month.

Wed, 07/05/2017 - 12:00 Permalink
albert martinez (not verified)

Hi Bryan,

Hi Bryan,
I am a veteran, totally and permanently disabled (100 percent). Due to PTSD and agoraphobia caused by military sexual trauma. Am I likely to be awarded SSDI in your opinion? (I do counseling 13 hours a month in a retirement home) thank you very much

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 11:18 Permalink

In reply to by albert martinez (not verified)

Hi Albert,

Hi Albert,
I really could not say, but given that you do have a VA rating of 100%, your chances may be better than someone with a lower rating.

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 13:02 Permalink
Jacqueline Hardin (not verified)

My husband's buddy filed

My husband's buddy filed for va disability and social security disability benefits for MS since his dad had it. My husband wrote out a letter saying his buddy showed symptoms. He now has quite a bit of money coming in and plays golf almost every day because the letter was used to make the decision. 8 I told my husband that what he was doing was wrong and illegal but he didnt seem to care. This took place several years ago, I can't see any signs of Jerry shaking with MS and I have it. And it is flat out wrong to take the government's money meant for the disabled, and live high off the hog, and laugh about it!

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 17:17 Permalink

In reply to by Jacqueline Hardin (not verified)

Hi Jaqueline,

Hi Jaqueline,
YOu may want to contact the SSA regarding this, you can contact them at 1-800-772-1213.

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 15:44 Permalink
Willis Hubbard (not verified)

I have a % of 100 and a

I have a % of 100 and a additional 70% I have been approved for my va disability but social security denied me twice once before awarded va disability and then after I received the va 100% which I was told I could not work or I would lose all my disability from va. Why is ssi denying me for the second time.

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 14:24 Permalink

In reply to by Willis Hubbard (not verified)

Hi Willis,

Hi Willis,
If you were applying for benefits based on income, you would be denied as the SSA only awards those benefits based on income, which you would have after being awarded VA benefits.

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 10:20 Permalink
dan connolly (not verified)


was denied 2x had hearing in dec now was denied today..
ive had 14 surgeries, 1 purple heart and 100perm n total from va
i still dont meet medical conditions
just dont get it

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 08:25 Permalink
Jessica Baran (not verified)

Hi, my husband received an 80

Hi, my husband received an 80% rating from the VA for PTSD and Asthma both service related conditions not allowing him to work at all. He rates for individual unemployablity. Do you believe he will qualify if we apply for social security?

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 13:12 Permalink

In reply to by Jessica Baran (not verified)

Hi Jessica,

Hi Jessica,

It's definitely possible, but those cases are a bit tough to win though. Wishing you an your husband nothing but the best.

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 14:32 Permalink
Hector (not verified)

I have been denied 2 times

I have been denied 2 times now just received the letter today, I did apply back in October 2017 since then I received my 100% total and permanent and have had 3 surgeries and still got denied what else can I do? I want to appeal but I want a lawyer now

Sat, 06/30/2018 - 23:26 Permalink
mckayla (not verified)

will 70% va disability

will 70% va disability qualify for ssi?

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 10:52 Permalink

In reply to by mckayla (not verified)

Hi Mckayla,

Hi Mckayla,

It won't automatically qualify you, but it's a good indication that you'll have a good chance go qualifying. When you apply, use both your military and civilian medical records. The more medical evidence you have, the better chance you'll have of getting approved!

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 11:41 Permalink
Tracy Cooper (not verified)

The VA rated me at 80%. They

The VA rated me at 80%. They stated I am unemployable, permanently and totally disabled. I am being paid at the 100% rate with all the benefits that coincide. I filed for SSI in August of 2019. Do you think I will get approved? How long until you think I will know something since it is now October? Thank you for your time.

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 12:52 Permalink

In reply to by Tracy Cooper (not verified)

Hi Tracy,

Hi Tracy,

Thank you for your service! With a high VA rating, you'll have a good chance of medically qualifying. The SSA will also take into consideration technical qualifications. For SSI, this means household income. You'll have to be within certain income limits. It typically takes a few months to hear back. Best of luck!

Wed, 10/16/2019 - 14:58 Permalink

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