How to Qualify for SSDI While Receiving VA Benefits
It’s a common misconception that you can’t collect both SSDI and VA benefits at the same time. This simply isn’t the case as one does not negate the other. In fact, these are separate but mutually supportive agencies that will both pay disability benefits and provide essential health insurance for qualified veterans.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that nearly 3.8 million U.S. Veterans are currently experiencing some form of disability. Of those, approximately 1.1 million have received a VA rating of 70% or higher, which means that their condition prevents them from living and working normally. If a veteran is receiving VA compensation for their inability to work, they may also be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
The Difference Between Veterans Disability and Social Security Disability
The primary difference between veterans disability and SSDI is that you don’t have to be totally disabled to receive veteran’s disability payments. In fact, most veterans who receive compensation don’t have this total disability rating. A veteran can have a disability rating of just 10% and receive a monthly payment from the VA if they have shown that their impairment is service-connected.
SSDI doesn’t operate the same as veteran’s disability. To receive SSDI, a person must show that they are eligible for the benefits and totally disabled according to the agency’s definition of disability. Eligibility refers to the number of years worked in which Social Security (FICA) taxes were paid. A total disability is one that is both severe and long-term. In other words, you must have a disability that prevents you from performing your job duties and one that is expected to last at least one year.
In the past, there was a “treating physician rule” that gave more weight to SSDI decisions than VA benefit decisions. For SSDI, the opinion of a treating doctor was given the most weight, but this is no longer the case. As of March 27, 2017, the entire file is given equal weight in an SSDI case, which makes decisions between the two agencies now more equitable.
The Benefits of Receiving Both SSDI and VA Benefits
Many veterans receive disability payments and are unaware that they are also eligible to receive SSDI payments. In fact, veterans who are already receiving benefits with a disability rating of 70% or higher may have an easier time qualifying for SSDI and could receive some additional help during the application process. Some of the benefits afforded to totally disabled veterans include:
- Expedited application. Most SSDI applications are lengthy processes that can take anywhere from several months to over a year. The good news is that military service members who have become disabled while on active military service on or after October 1, 2001 are eligible to receive accelerated application processing. Instead of waiting several months, you could hear back from the agency in just a few weeks.
- Increased qualification chances. As a veteran who already has a disability rating of 70% or higher, you have a greater chance of being approved for SSDI benefits. This is because the VA has already certified that you are unable to work, so the agency only needs to verify your other qualifications.
- Simultaneous health insurance benefits. As a veteran, you’re eligible for medical care through the VA and TRICARE. Retired and disabled Americans are also eligible for Medicare health coverage. In fact, Medicare through SSDI provides even more health insurance coverage which you can combine with your TRICARE benefits.
- Continued VA benefits without impacting SSDI eligibility. When you collect SSDI benefits, you are prohibited from also collecting money for work activity. Fortunately, any VA benefits that you collect for disability or other non-work military pay doesn’t count towards this disqualification. This means that you can collect from both agencies and provide better financial security for yourself and your family.
Applying for SSDI While Collecting VA Benefits
If you are currently collecting VA disability benefits, nothing should stop you from also applying for SSDI. Despite the encouragement for veterans, the Social Security Administration still puts up some roadblocks for these benefits. Some claims are denied for frivolous reasons, and the application process can be confusing at best. The Dansby Law Firm can help break down these barriers so that you can begin collecting your benefits as quickly as possible. Contact us at 334-539-8787 or online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your options.