The Veterans Benefits Association offers monetary benefits and healthcare for veterans who are prevented from working by a physical or mental disability that was caused or worsened by their time of service.
However, if your condition worsens for reasons unrelated to your time in the military, your monthly VA check may no longer be enough to live on.
If you are already receiving VA disability benefits, you can still collect Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits at the same time. While they’re both for people with disabilities, they’re separate programs and don’t conflict with each other. And because they don’t overlap, there is no guarantee that you will be approved for SSDI even if you have already been approved for VA benefits.
Quick Overview of VA Benefits
VA disability compensation benefits are available through the Department for Veteran Affairs. To apply for these benefits, you must file a claim through the VA.
The VA will use your service records, results from your C&P exam, and medical evidence you submit along with your claim to determine your disability rating. You will receive a disability rating on a sliding scale from 0 to 100 percent. Later on if your disability worsens, you can apply to increase your rating.
Your monthly benefits amount depends on your disability rating and whether you have dependents. If you have a 100% Permanent and Total (100P&T) rating and have a spouse and more than one child, you could receive over $3,000 a month.
You should receive your first disability compensation payment within 15 days of the VA’s decision.
Can I Apply for SSDI if I’m Already Getting VA Benefits?
Yes, you can still apply for Social Security disability insurance if you’re already receiving VA benefits. Even though they are both government programs, they use different criteria to award benefits.
Veterans with a 100 percent P&T disability rating may receive expedited processing of applications for Social Security disability benefits. Considering that it could take three to five months to get an initial decision, a faster process is definitely preferable.
There are two things you should keep in mind as you apply. First of all, the SSA uses different criteria to determine whether or not an applicant is disabled. You are not guaranteed an approval just because the VA found you disabled. Instead, you must prove that you are disabled according to the SSA’s criteria.
There is no guarantee that you will be approved. Even though the VA has already said you were disabled, the SSA could deny your application. Luckily you can appeal their decision.
Secondly, you must make less per month than the substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit to qualify for SSDI. In 2020, the SGA limit is $1,260 a month. It is possible to keep working while you apply for disability benefits, but working may reflect poorly on your claim. After all, if you are applying for SSDI then you are claiming to be unable to work. If you are making over that amount, then you will be denied benefits.
Talk to your case manager or contact a Social Security disability attorney if you have questions about work limits and SSDI.
How is SSDI Different from VA Benefits?
While both SSDI and VA benefits aid people with disabilities, their qualification guidelines and application process vary.
Perhaps the greatest difference between the programs is that the SSA doesn’t use disability ratings. They approve your claim or they deny your claim: there is no sliding scale of benefits.
To qualify for SSDI, your disability must meet the definition in the SSA’s Blue Book of Listings. It also must have lasted at least a year or is expected to last a year or end in death. If your condition is not in the Blue Book or if you cannot prove that it will last at least a year, you will not be approved.
The SSA uses your medical records to determine whether you will be approved or denied. The VA may share your medical records with the SSA, but both departments can lose documents in the bureaucratic shuffle. You will want to keep your medical records on hand just in case. You are also able to submit new evidence proving the extent of your condition to the SSA.
To qualify for SSDI, you must have earned enough work credits. You earn work credits by paying Social Security taxes out of your paycheck, and most people need 40 work credits to qualify for SSDI.
The SSA also calculates monthly benefits differently than the VA. SSDI benefits are equal to the average of your lifetime earnings from the time you started working to your onset date, or when you became disabled. This may or may not be more than you are already receiving from the VA.
Once you are approved for SSDI, you will receive your first payment within 90 days of the decision.
What about SSI?
The SSA also offers a needs-based program called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Like SSDI, SSI is meant for disabled persons who are unable to work. But unlike SSDI, SSI is only based on your countable income, not on your work history. Oftentimes people who do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI can apply for SSI instead.
It is possible to receive VA disability benefits and SSI at the same time, but your VA benefits would be subtracted from your monthly SSI payment. And if you are receiving too much money from the VA, you may not even qualify for SSI.
A local disability attorney can answer any questions you may have about applying for SSI, or if SSI is the best program for your situation.
How an Attorney Can Help
If you aren’t sure how to navigate the sometimes confusing and frustrating Social Security process, you aren’t alone. A Social Security disability lawyer can help you through the entire process. From applying for SSDI and gathering medical records to appealing the decision if you are denied, your attorney and their legal team is an important asset.
And the help won’t stop after you have been approved. If you are in a car accident and aren’t sure how your settlement will affect your disability benefits, your attorney can help. Or if you reach retirement age and aren’t sure how Social Security retirement will affect your VA benefits, your attorney can help point you in the right direction.
At Hensley Legal Group, we understand the disability process and are passionate about getting our clients approved. We’ve even written a free ebook, Eight Mistakes to Avoid When Filing for Social Security Disability Benefits, to help walk you through common mistakes made during the filing process.
Call us today or contact us online for a free conversation about your Social Security disability claim. Hensley Legal Group is here and ready to help, 24/7.