VA and Social Security benefits are different government programs. Therefore, they have varying requirements. You can receive both. While one may impact the other, it’s worthwhile to file for the total disability benefits you deserve.
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If you’re seeking payment from Social Security Disability Insurance along with your VA disability benefits, you likely have questions about how and if the two work together. Will one claim negate or cause problems with the other? This post answers your questions about VA disability and SSDI for veterans.
In this article about VA disability and SSDI benefits
- What is SSDI, and who qualifies?
- Differences between VA disability and Social Security
- The VA and SSA are separate government entities.
- The VA and SSA have their own eligibility guidelines.
- You may be eligible for one benefit and not the other.
- Both disability agencies won’t view evidence the same.
- Each benefit pays a different amount.
- The VA and SSA process claims differently.
- The VA and SSA work at different speeds.
- Receiving SSDI and VA disability benefits
- Does TDIU help with SSDI?
- When you’re 100% VA disability but denied SSDI
- SSDI considerations for veterans
- Woods and Woods can help
What is SSDI, and who qualifies?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a tax-funded federal insurance program to provide monthly compensation to people who are disabled and can’t work. Workers and their employers pay into the fund. The Social Security Administration manages it.
SSDI benefits differ from Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI benefits are for people who have worked and earned enough work credits. SSI benefits are for people with low-income and disabilities who are unable to work.
“SSI is awarded when you are no longer insured during your application period. The receipt of SSI is dependent upon how much income you have, so your receipt of VA compensation benefits at the same time may affect your eligibility for SSI,” said Lori Underwood, a VA-certified disability benefits lawyer.
“If you are receiving VA benefits above the accepted level through the Social Security Administration, it’s possible that you will lose your SSI benefits eventually. However, it is in your best interest to pursue VA compensation benefits. VA total disability or individual unemployability rating pays more than your SSI benefits.”
To be eligible for Social Security benefits, you must have been employed in a job covered by Social Security and have those earning deductions on your record. The amount you receive depends on how much Social Security was deducted from your earnings and how old you are when you draw Social Security.
You can receive Social Security disability if you can’t work because of a severe medical condition that lasts (or is expected to last) more than a year or is terminal. Social Security benefits can’t start until you’ve had the condition for at least six months.
Veterans who are disabled due to their military service can receive both Social Security and VA benefits simultaneously. They may receive their military retirement and any other retirement benefits they may have accrued throughout their career.
Differences between VA disability and Social Security
While you may receive Social Security and VA benefits simultaneously, the two are different in many ways.
The VA and SSA are separate government entities.
The VA and the Social Security Administration are separate government agencies. Your application or appeal at one agency has no official bearing on the other. Receiving one benefit is not a guarantee for the other benefit’s eligibility. So, you have to go through the full process for both.
The VA and SSA have their own eligibility guidelines.
The VA and SSA have different eligibility guidelines. You may obtain your 100% VA disability and Social Security disability for different reasons or different mental and physical impairments. The VA and SSA’s laws don’t overlap, and each agency drafts its own eligibility guidelines.
You may be eligible for one benefit and not the other.
Because the VA and SSA are different agencies, you may receive one benefit, not the other. You can receive a 100% VA disability rating and get denied Social Security disability benefits and vice versa. But you can appeal either agency’s denial.
Both disability agencies won’t view evidence the same.
The VA and SSA will look at the same evidence but in a different light. Therefore, it’s essential to understand what each agency is looking for and provide the information they need to best evaluate your claim.
Each benefit pays a different amount.
Your VA disability rating will determine your VA payment. The amount you receive from Social Security disability benefits depends on how much you pay into the system while working.
The VA and SSA process claims differently.
Your Social Security and VA disability applications won’t be decided simultaneously. Generally, the SSA moves claims much faster than the VA. Many VA disability benefits claims take years to make a final decision.
The VA and SSA work at different speeds.
Your Social Security and 100% VA disability applications will not be decided simultaneously. Generally, the SSA moves claims much faster than the VA. Many VA disability benefits claims take years to make a final decision.
Receiving SSDI and VA disability benefits
The Social Security Administration automatically identifies veterans who meet the VA Permanent and Total (P&T) disability rating. The VA assigns the P&T rating to veterans who are disabled and not expected to improve. These veterans may even qualify for expedited Social Security benefit processing.
You must submit the necessary documents and answer questions to apply for Social Security benefits.
Your rating from the VA will not negatively impact your SSDI claim, but the SSA can use it as evidence of your disability. And the amount veterans receive in SSDI benefits isn’t reduced because of their VA benefits, so applying for both is beneficial.
Just remember that the SSA works independently from the VA. Since the programs have different eligibility requirements, you may be eligible for one, not the other, or you may qualify for both.
Does TDIU help with SSDI?
Total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) is for veterans who can’t keep or obtain gainful employment because of service-connected impairments. Those TDIU disabilities must be related to your time in the service and be considered service-connected to receive benefits.
Veterans can receive individual unemployability and Social Security disability simultaneously. But being eligible for one disability benefit does not mean you are automatically entitled to the other because of the organizations’ different guidelines. Even if you have one benefit, you still have to submit each application and go through the unique processes.
Also, the amount veterans receive in SSDI benefits isn’t reduced because of their VA benefits, so it can be beneficial to apply for both. The two benefit programs have different eligibility requirements, meaning some veterans will qualify for one or the other, and some will qualify for both.
“Both TDIU and 100% disability service connection compensation are tax-free benefits,” Underwood said. “They can also be received while you are receiving Social Security disability.”
When you’re 100% VA disability but denied SSDI
Because you’re working with separate entities and differing requirements, you can have a 100% VA disability rating and be denied Social Security disability benefits. The most common reason the Social Security Administration denies disability benefits is because the applicant continues to work and makes too much money. It’s also possible that the SSA couldn’t find you in its system or didn’t recognize the severity of your injury.
You can appeal if you believe the SSDI decision is unjust, but you generally only have 60 days from receiving the denial letter to do so. That means you need to act quickly. A Social Security disability lawyer can assist you through the process.
SSDI considerations for veterans
Because you’re dealing with two entities, the SSA behaves differently than the VA. Below are some other things to consider when filing for SSDI benefits.
Alcohol and drug use
The VA doesn’t always penalize veterans for alcohol and drug use. It can understand that many veterans self-medicate using drugs and alcohol, specifically those experiencing trauma-related disorders. But the SSA may respond differently, especially if your disabilities are caused by or worsened by drug and alcohol use.
“A lot of times the Social Security Administration may look negatively on things such as self-medication through alcohol and drug abuse because of mental instability,” Underwood said. “However, the VA tends to take a more lenient approach and a more understanding approach of a veteran’s self-medication because of their mental instability. This may preclude you from receiving Social Security Administration benefits, but it does not necessarily preclude you from individual unemployability benefits through the VA or a total occupational and social impairment rating through the VA.”
The VA and SSA require doctor’s reports to verify claims. But you can use different doctors’ opinions and even differing medical conditions to make your claims. SSDI doesn’t consider service-connection, so covering that in your report isn’t necessary. The same is true of reports from vocational experts. You don’t have to submit the same report to each entity, and should focus on supporting the claim you’re making.
VA claims aren’t based on age. But SSDI claims consider your age. The age you are when filing the claim will affect your payment amount. Older people are likely to have worked longer and put more into the system, meaning they’re eligible to get more in return.
The VA considers whether you can work or not, specifically in the type of jobs you’ve done in the past when you apply for TDIU. The SSA also considers whether you can work. It also considers whether you’ve worked in the past and how much you’ve paid into the system.
You may have to pay taxes on your Social Security benefits, depending on how much you receive. VA benefits are tax-free.
“Both TDIU and 100% disability service connection compensation are tax-free benefits,” Underwood said. “They can be also be received while you are receiving Social Security disability.”
Woods and Woods can help
Regardless of the differences between the VA and the Social Security Administration, you deserve all of the compensation coming to you. Woods and Woods can help. Contact us to file an initial claim or appeal a decision. You don’t have to seek the help you deserve alone.
All of our attorneys are VA-certified. Call us and join the thousands of veterans we have helped to receive the VA disability benefits they deserve.
Talk to Us About Your Claim: (866) 232-5777
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
You will not be taxed on your VA disability compensation. However, you may be taxed on your Social Security benefits, depending on how much you qualify for.
Yes, you can. The VA and the Social Security Administration are separate entities with different requirements for benefits.