Can a Veteran be Approved for both Social Security Disability and Veterans (VA) Disability Benefits?

Yes. Veterans can be approved for both Social Security disability benefits and VA disability benefits.  However, you must file for each benefit program and qualify under each program’s different rules.

What is required to meet SSA’s disability insured status?

You must have disability insured status before you can qualify for Social Security disability benefits or SSDI. Generally, you have to have earned 20 credits during the last 10 years. However, if you are 31 years old or younger, you can have fewer than 40 credits to meet the disability insured status.  

As a military service member, you pay Social Security taxes on your earnings and accrue work credits.  Since 1988, inactive duty service in the armed forces reserves are covered by Social Security.  You may also get additional earnings credits under certain conditions. For more information, go to https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10017.pdf. 

What is SSA’s definition of disability?

SSA has a strict definition of disability:

  • You must be unable to do substantial gainful work because of your medical condition(s); and

  • Your medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 12 months or to result in death.

Once you are approved for SSDI benefits, the amount you receive each month is based on your average earnings before your disability began and is NOT based on the severity of your disability.  You can receive up to 12 months of retroactive SSDI benefits from the date you file a SSDI application with Social Security.  For SSI benefits, you can only receive payments back to the date the application was filed or the protective filing date. 

Can SSA expedite the processing of disability claim filed by a veteran?

Yes.  If you are a veteran rated with a 100 percent permanent and total disability, SSA will expedite your disability claim as a high priority workload. SSA is usually able to identify veterans who meet the criteria, but sometimes the veteran may have to self-identify by providing the VA notification letter to SSA.  SSA also expedites disability claims for military service members who became disabled on or after October 1, 2001.

What do I need to file for Social Security disability?

You will need information such as:

  • Your Social Security number;
  • Proof of your age;
  • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of doctors, hospitals, and clinics that treated you and the dates of your visits;
  • Names and dosages of all the medications you are taking;
  • Medical records from your doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics, and caseworkers that you already have copies of;
  • Information about laboratory and test results;
  • A summary of where you worked and the kind of work you did;
  • Your most recent W-2 form; 
  • Supporting statements from family, friends, coworkers, or clergy with knowledge about your disability.
  • Information about your spouse and children.

In addition, you need to have certain military documents available such as:

  • Form DD 214
  • Proof of military pay
  • Any military medical records you have that support your disability, including medical tests, physician’s notes, and therapy documentation.

Are VA benefits considered income for disabled veterans who also get Social Security disability?

VA benefits will not affect your SSDI benefits. However, VA benefits will have an effect on SSI.  SSA classifies VA benefits as “unearned income” because the payment is not due to paid employment.

What is required to get approved for VA disability?

You may be eligible for disability compensation, if you: 

  • Got sick or injured while serving in the military—and can link this condition to your illness or injury (called an in-service disability claim), or
  • Had an illness or injury before you joined the military—and serving made it worse (called a pre-service disability claim), or
  • Have a disability related to your active-duty service that didn’t appear until after you ended your service (called a post-service disability claim)
  • AND your military discharge was not dishonorable.

What is a VA disability rating and How is it used?

For veterans’ disability, you do not need to be totally disabled to be eligible for compensation.  The combined or total disability rating is a percentage ranges from 0 to 100 percent and is based on the severity of your impairment(s) and how much your disability decreases your overall health and ability to function.

The VA uses your disability rating to determine your disability compensation rate, and it affects the amount of money you receive from the VA each month. 

What do I need to file for VA disability?

You will also need your DD 214 discharge papers and any other separation documents you have.  Also, you will need medical records and other information such as:

  • VA medical records and hospital records that relate to your claimed conditions or that show your rated disability has gotten worse.
  • Any other military medical records you have that support your disability, including medical tests, physician’s notes, and therapy documentation.
  • Private medical records and hospital reports that relate to your claimed condition or that show your disability has gotten worse.
  • Supporting statements from family members, friends, clergy, law enforcement personnel, or those you served with that provide information about your claimed condition and how and when it happened or how it got worse.

For more information about what information is needed to support a claim for VA disability, see https://www.va.gov/disability/how-to-file-claim/evidence-needed/

Contact a Disability Lawyer for Help

Choose a disability lawyer who is experienced and knows what is required to win both your VA disability and Social Security disability claims.  Check to see if a disability attorney is VA accredited at https://www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp.

For a free consultation, contact an accredited VA disability lawyer at Cardea Disability, LLC at 334-440-6261 and visit our website at https://cardeadisabilityllc.com.