Can a Disabled Veteran Receive SSDI?

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Can a Disabled Veteran Receive SSDI? Disabled veterans can receive SSDI benefits. An award of VA disability benefits won’t prevent you from also receiving SSDI benefits. However, there are differences between qualifying for these types of benefits.

Disabled Veterans:  SSDI vs. VA disability benefits

SSDI requires that your medical conditions prevent you from working for at least 12 months.  SSDI doesn’t distinguish between partial or total disability.  Unlike SSDI, VA disability benefits don’t require total disability.  In fact, most veterans who receive VA compensation do not receive a total disability rating. 

How do disabled veterans qualify for SSDI? 

To qualify for SSDI, you must have worked a certain number of years and earned enough work credits.  You receive work credits each year that you work and pay taxes.  At most, you can earn four work credits per year.  Generally, you need a total of 20 work credits to qualify for SSDI.  However, there are some age exceptions.  If you are younger, you may qualify for SSDI with fewer credits. 

SSDI financial requirements for disabled veterans

As mentioned, SSDI requires that you earn a certain amount of work credits to qualify.  Therefore, there are no limits to the amount of assets, cash or other resources you own.  For example, VA disability benefits will not keep you from receiving SSDI benefits.  Additionally, they will not reduce your SSDI benefits. 

Working disabled veterans

Since Social Security defines disability as the inability to work, if you are working, you may not qualify for SSDI.  Social Security considers work earnings over a certain amount “substantial gainful activity” or SGA.  If you earn over the SGA limit, you will not qualify for SSDI.  In 2020, earnings S1, 260 per month or (before taxes) are considered SGA.  If you are working part-time and earning less than SGA, you may still qualify for SSDI.  However, any work may make it harder for Social Security to approve your claim. 

Medical requirements for disabled veterans

First, Social Security considers whether your medical conditions fall under their listing of impairments, known as the Blue Book.  Typically, the Blue Book requires that your medical conditions meet very specific requirements.  If you don’t meet the listings, Social Security considers your residual functional capacity or RFC.  An RFC includes both physical and mental limitations.  Social Security looks at your medical evidence to determine your RFC.  They can also consider the opinions of your doctors. 

Medical evidence for disabled veterans

Your medical evidence should include records only for the period of time that you became disabled and unable to work.  Your treatment should also be continuous and ongoing.  The VA and Department of Defense (DOD) share medical records electronically with Social Security.  Medical evidence can include:

  • Treatment notes and physical examinations
  • Imaging such as MRIs, x-rays, CT scans or nerve testing
  • Blood work or biopsy results
  • Pulmonary tests
  • Mental health records

Disabled veterans and your age

Social Security has special disability rules the older you are.  They look at a chart known as the Medical-Vocational guidelines to evaluate your claim called the “grid rules.”  The grid rules make it easier for older people to win their case.  Social Security considers your age, education and work background.  The older you are, the easier it can be to win your case. 

Example 1: applying the grid rules for disabled veterans

For example, Michael, a 57 year veteran, applied for disability due to back pain.  He previously worked as janitor, receives disability compensation related to a back injury.  He has trouble standing and walking, needs a cane.  His medical records include MRIs and x-rays of his back documenting his impairment.  His doctors have also documented that he has pain and limited motion of his back.  Social Security found that he could not return to work as a janitor.  Since he is over the age of 55, the grid rules allow Social Security to approve his claim. 

Does my VA approval help improve my chances receiving SSDI?

Generally, your VA approval will not help you get SSDI.  Social Security will consider any evidence that the VA used when making their decision.  Social Security may also use VA or DOD evidence to expedite SSDI claims for Wounded Warriors or veterans with a 100% disability compensation rating.  Similarly, the VA may not give Social Security’s decision much weight.  Usually, Social Security’s decision can be unclear whether the disability is based on service-connected or non-service disability.  However, the VA is required to consider your Social Security records. 

Does active duty affect eligibility for SSDI?

Active duty status or receipt of military pay doesn’t necessarily prevent you from receiving SSDI.  Since you can’t receive SSDI if you are engaging in SGA, Social Security evaluates your work activity to figure out your eligibility.  You can apply while in a rehabilitation program or attending outpatient programs regardless of whether your treatment is in a VA hospital or civilian facility.   If you are on limited duty or working in a designated therapy program, you should definitely apply for SSDI. 

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FAQ

How Can I Get TDIU?

How Can I Get TDIU?

Many veterans are unable to earn a living because of service-connected disabilities. Congress created a special benefit called TDIU to help these veterans live comfortably. Also known as Unemployability. TDIU pays the same monthly amount as a 100% disability rating.

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