Can You Receive SSDI and VA Disability?
If you’re a disabled veteran, you may be wondering if you can receive social security disability insurance, SSDI and VA disability benefits at the same time. The answer is yes.
SSDI and VA disability are two separate federal programs, although there is some overlap. For example, an SSDI award could make it easier to obtain a VA disability award, and vice versa. A grant of benefits under one program can serve as evidence of a disability in addition to medical records. Be aware, however, that the SSDI denial rate is even higher than the VA disability rate, as hard as that is to believe. A denied prior claim under one program can work against you in the other.
The high denial rate at the VA underscores the need for a VA disability attorney. With yearly budget cuts, the VA is looking for ways to deny benefits to veterans. That doesn’t mean benefits are not available — only that an experienced attorney is your best bet to obtaining them. Benefits include free medical care at VA facilities, monthly cash payments, and other help such as transportation or burial costs. Usually, the cash payment benefit is retroactive to the filing date, which means significant VA back pay may be available if you are ultimately successful in a drawn-out claim.
The social security definition of disability is strict and requires you to answer five questions:
- Are you earning over (approximately) $1,350 per month ($2,260 if you are blind) through employment? If so, you do not qualify for disability. If you are not earning this much, your claim can be sent to the Disability Determination Service (DDS) for questions 2-5.
- Is your condition “severe”—meaning does it limit your ability to do work-related activities for the past 12 months, at least?
- Is your condition part of the list of disabling conditions?
- Does your condition prevent you from doing the work you did previously?
- Are you unable to do other work because you lack transferable skills?
DDS Determinations for SSDI and VA Disability
If DDS determined the answers to questions 2-5 are all “yes,” you qualify for SSDI. So, the process is similar in some ways to the VA determination for unemployability.
There are special considerations for blind people, widows and widowers, and children with disabilities.
One big difference in SSDI and VA compensation claims is that there are no degrees of disability in SSDI. While the VA has a complex rating scheme which determines how much you receive each month, the DDS considers you disabled or not disabled, without breaking it down into degrees of disability.
In addition to the DDS determination of a disability, the Social Security Administration requires that you have worked in a job that is covered by social security, for a long enough time that you qualify for the benefits. This is determined by breaking up your employment into chunks of employment known as “work credits.” It is based on your income and you can earn up to four credits per year. In 2022, you can earn one credit per $1,510 in wages or self-employment income. Typically, you need 40 credits to qualify for SSDI, with 20 of the credits being earned in the last 10 years (up to when your disability started). Exceptions can apply to younger workers.
VA Disability Basics
As mentioned, a VA disability attorney can obtain benefits for disabled veterans if their disabilities have service-related connections. This means the injury or other disabling condition arose during service or otherwise had its roots in service. Aggravation of a pre-existing condition can also qualify A service record usually establishes this connection, especially if a trauma injury, like a gunshot wound, caused the disability.
In many other cases, however, a service-related connection is harder to prove. Attorneys often use “buddy” statements to fill in the gaps left by poor record-keeping during service. Witnesses that served alongside the veteran usually have more insight into the claimant’s daily activities than a compilation of service records. Additionally, many veterans admit they were reluctant to seek medical care on active duty for a variety of reasons, one being the need to appear tough, healthy, and capable. This is another instance where a friend or family member can attest to the veteran’s condition during service.
Additionally, the extent of disability must be determined. For example, knee flexion (limited range of motion in the knee) could be anywhere from 0% disabling to 100% disabling. Depending on the veteran’s symptoms. A VA-sponsored C&P (compensation and pension) medical examination may provide the necessary evidence, or an attorney may suggest an independent medical exam. Buddy statements attesting to the veteran’s current ability to navigate daily life are useful here as well.
Rely on Experienced Attorneys
An attorney is a valuable partner in all phases of a disability claim. For a free consultation with an experienced veterans disability lawyer, contact the Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box on our website. We are here to represent veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship.