Nearly 4 million veterans live with a disability recognized by the VA. While the VA provides benefits intended to ease the financial burden you may face with a disabling condition, in some cases you may require additional assistance. In such cases, it is often possible to qualify for both VA benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
While most people applying for SSDI benefits are disqualified from receiving disability benefits if they continue earning money from work, your VA benefits are considered “non-work” compensation.
With around 1.1 million disabled vets assigned a disability rating of 70% or higher, meaning they are living with a condition that makes it difficult to work or live normally, it is not uncommon to seek the additional benefits provided by SSDI. However, before seeking to add SSDI benefits to what you are already receiving from the VA, it will be important to understand the differences between how the VA and the Social Security Administration (SSA) determine benefits, as they both have different requirements.
The rest of this article will begin by explaining those differences. From there you will learn how to qualify for SSDI on top of your approved VA disability benefits.
How SSDI Differs from VA Disability
Despite both the VA and SSA being government programs, they offer different benefits and hold different requirements to receive those benefits. To start, they both have a different definition of “Disability”.
The VA recognizes most conditions that are considered to have been “incurred or aggravated by military service.” This means that even lesser conditions may be awarded some compensation. The VA rates service-connected conditions on a scale of 0-100, with compensation being awarded beginning at a 10% rating. Therefore it’s possible for you to receive payments even without being completely disabled.
The SSA, on the other hand, does not use a similar percentage-based system. In order to receive SSDI, you must provide evidence of a physical or mental health condition that limits your ability to maintain gainful employment. You also must provide evidence that your condition has lasted, or will continue to last, for at least 12 months, or end only in death.
This also means that SSDI has a higher requirement to meet in order to receive benefits.
However, you also do not need to prove a service-connection for SSDI, nor is your discharge status taken into account. Also, there is no graduated scale of payment for SSDI. Your SSDI benefit will be calculated by the SSA looking at your average earnings from your work history record.
Finally, while it may be obvious, the VA benefits are reserved strictly for veterans, while SSDI is available to any American who may require assistance for their disability.
How to Get SSDI on Top of Your VA Benefits
In order to determine if your condition meets the higher requirements that SSDI has you can refer to the SSA’s Blue Book. In fact, you can check it out on their website by clicking here. Within you’ll find all conditions that qualify as well as the requirements that must be met under those conditions to receive benefits.
If you are completely and permanently disabled, your odds of qualifying for SSDI are fairly high. The SSA rarely denies benefits for veterans that are fully disabled, so long as they meet all other SSDI requirements.
Now, before you submit your claim to SSA, you will want to know that veterans receive special “perks” beginning at the application process and continuing forward.
First of all, veterans often qualify for an expedited application process. Meaning that, while most Americans may have to wait months to receive a decision on their claim and then benefits, veterans may receive their benefits within just a few weeks.
Secondly, if you’ve already had your claim accepted by the VA, and you are rated 70% or higher for your condition, you automatically have a higher chance of acceptance. Of course, as of 2017 new Social Security regulations dictate that they are no longer allowed to take into consideration whether or not the VA has already approved you. Despite this, the SSA will consider any evidence that the VA has already accumulated, which gives you a very strong case to present to them since your disability has already been established. Since both are government agencies, this information can be shared electronically, which can help expedite your process.
Finally, you may continue to receive TRICARE benefits on top of any Medicare benefits you can gain by receiving SSDI. This is great news as Medicare provides more coverage, while TRICARE will act as your secondary insurance, which will help with any additional costs on top of what Medicare covers.
To start your SSA application you can go to www.ssa.gov. There you will be able to fill out and submit your application for SSDI. There you will also find everything you need to know for assisting you during the process, including plenty of FAQ’s and other lists.
With the application, you will want to have your medical records and financial records, along with proof of your military pay and all the VA records that support your disability. Also, if you were formally discharged you will want to have your Form DD214 with you.
Having everything organized and on-hand will make things much easier as you apply.
How to Get the Most Benefits Possible from SSDI and the VA
If you’re fully disabled from a service-connected condition, you deserve to receive the greatest amount of assistance possible. This all starts by getting a 100% rating from the VA for your condition. The combination of full VA disability compensation combined with SSDI benefits can combine to be very helpful in giving you the best quality of life you can still have.
And if you’ve already been given a VA rating less than 100%, you may want to appeal to get a higher rating OR file for TDIU. You can do so by filing an appeal. Learn what that process looks like by clicking here
With a 100% rating to start with (or anything over 70%), you should have all you need to receive SSDI on top of it.
Most conditions that qualify for a higher rating from the VA also qualify for SSDI per the SSA Blue Book. However, if your condition is not found in the Blue Book, it is still possible to qualify for SSDI under Residual Function Capacity (RFC) if you cannot work.
The RFC form will help you determine the maximum amount of work you can perform with your condition. This is something your doctor will be asked to fill out. In order to get the process started, inform your doctor of your intent to file an application for disability benefits early. This way the RFC can be completed and submitted quickly. Often, when the diagnosis is not enough to qualify for benefits, the RFC form is the most important document in your application.
Looking at the Blue Book early to determine if you may qualify can help you begin your application with the RFC in mind. Make sure you include all your supporting medical records to support the RFC form so that you have the best chance of the SSA approving your claim.
Because there are no limitations to applying for SSDI on top of VA benefits, we recommend doing so to get the most assistance you possibly can.
If you’d like help getting the highest VA Rating possible, we would love to be of assistance! Our team is full of VA professionals who are experts in VA claims and will coach you through the entire process! To get signed up, check out this link now!