Written by guest blogger Deanna Power, Director of Outreach for Disability Benefits Help.
How Veterans Can Receive Both SSDI and VA Benefits
US veterans with disabilities are often surprised to learn that they can qualify for and receive Veteran’s Administration (VA) disability and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) simultaneously. Many believe that receiving one will negate their eligibility for the other, but the Veteran’s Administration and Social Security Administration (SSA) are separate but mutually supportive organizations. A Government Accountability Office report recommended in 2009 that the SSA makes an extra effort to provide certain (post-2001) veterans with access to SSDI. Special legislation has even been passed to help disabled service personnel get the disability benefits they need.
Applying for Veteran’s Administration Benefits
US military veterans can qualify for VA benefits if they have a mental or physical disability that resulted from their active military service. If their application is approved, the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) gives their disability a rating of 10% to 100%, which a higher rating receiving a higher monthly payment. As of December 2016, those with a 10% rating will receive an extra $133.57 per month, while someone is rated at 100% is entitled to $2,915.55. Those with a rating above 30% who also have dependents will receive more.
An application can be fast-tracked if the applicant meets one of the following criteria:
- Status as a former POW
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Sexual trauma while on active duty
- Evidence of homelessness or serious financial need
- Exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War
If a veteran is already getting VA benefits when they apply for SSDI, their chances of a successful claim increase because the SSA definition of disability has a strong similarity to the VA standard of ‘unemployability’. A higher VA rating means that another federal agency has found the applicant to be too disabled to work, which can have a positive impact on the SSA’s final decision.
Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays monthly benefits to applicants (both civilian and military) who become disabled before they reach retirement age. To qualify, disabled veterans must have a physical or mental disability that is expected to last at least one year or end in death, as well as an employment history that includes at least five years of full-time employment over the previous 10 years.
The SSA provides US veterans with special credits that increase the value of their earnings for benefit calculation purposes. Those who served between 1978 and 2001, for example, receive a credit of $100 for every $4300 they earned. If they served between 1957 and 1977, their credits are approximately $300 per quarter of active duty income. Veterans whose military service dates prior to 1957 are credited $160 a month in earnings.
Another SSA concession to former military personnel is the fact that if a veteran meets at least one of the criteria below, their disability application will be fast-tracked.
- A Veteran’s Administration disability rating of 100%
- A disability incurred during active duty after October 1, 2001
While the SSA is not required to automatically follow suit if an applicant has been granted benefits by another organization such as the VA (each agency has its own rules and criteria for disability determination), a successful VA application can play a pivotal role in winning an approval for SSDI benefits, especially if a veteran’s disability rating is 70% or higher. A lower rating could have the opposite effect, however, as the SSA requires applicants to be completely disabled while the VA allows for partial disability.
For more information about VA and SSDI benefits and how to apply for them as a disabled veteran, visit the Veteran’s Administration website at http://www.va.gov/ and the SSA website at https://www.ssa.gov/ You may also contact the VA at 1-800-827-1000 and the SSA at 1-800-772-1213.