Can a Veteran Receive Both VA and Social Security Benefits?

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Can a Veteran Receive Both VA and Social Security Benefits? Veterans can qualify for both VA and Social Security benefits.  Frequently, veterans apply for both VA and Social Security benefits.  However, VA and Social Security benefits have different requirements. 

VA benefits for veterans

VA benefits or service-connected disability, have specific requirements.  You must show that your disabling condition was “incurred or aggravated by your military service.”  You will not qualify for VA benefits if you have a dishonorable discharge.  You can receive partial disability benefits from the VA.  VA disability compensation rates range from 10-100%, in 10% increments. 

Social Security benefits

Social Security has two types of benefits, disability insurance benefits (SSDI) and supplemental security income benefits (SSI).  Under SSDI, you must have worked and earned at least 20 work credits.  Generally, this means you must have worked at least 5 out of the last 10 years.  Under SSI, you do not need any work credits.  However, you must meet certain financial requirements.  You must show that your medical conditions keep you from working for at least 12 months.  Unlike VA benefits, Social Security doesn’t offer partial disability. 

Applying for both VA and Social Security benefits

If you get approved for one benefit, it doesn’t increase your chances for getting approved for the other.  Social Security and the VA follow different rules.  However, Social Security considers medical evidence from the VA.  Similarly, the VA considers your Social Security records. 

Expedited processing for veterans

Fortunately, Social Security can fast-track certain cases for veterans.  Social Security expedites processing for veterans with a 100% VA rating.  You should identify as a “Veteran rated 100% P&T” when filing your application.  You should also include your VA rating notification letter.  Additionally, Social Security fast-tracks case for Wounded Warriors.  You should tell Social Security that your injuries happened while on active duty.  

Application process for VA benefits

Both the VA and Social Security reviews medical records.  The VA uses military doctors and other health personnel to evaluate your disability claim.  The VA may ask you to attend a claim exam, known as a C&P exam.  This exam helps the VA rate your disability.  Additionally, the VA assigns a disabling rate to each of your conditions.  These rates determine your Total Combined VA disability rating.  The VA uses this rating to figure out the amount of your benefits.

Application process for Social Security benefits

Unlike the VA, Social Security doesn’t rate your conditions separately.  Social Security looks at how the combination of your conditions impacts your functioning.  First, they consider if any of your conditions meet certain conditions under their listing of impairments, known as the “Blue Book”.  Most conditions will not meet these strict requirements.  Next, Social Security considers your residual functional capacity or RFC.  Your RFC includes both physical and mental limitations.  If Social Security determines that your conditions keep you from working, they will approve your disability claim.  Like the VA, Social Security may ask you to attend a medical exam to help evaluate your claim. 

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. 

How much can I get from VA and Social Security benefits?

As discussed, the VA calculates your payments based on your Total Combined VA disability rating.  Social Security uses a complicated formula based on the amount of earnings you paid taxes on.  Therefore, everyone’s amount is different.  VA benefits will not affect your SSDI payments.  In other words, you can receive both payments in full.  Unfortunately, any VA benefits will reduce your SSI payments. 

VA and Social Security medical benefits

Veterans receiving VA disability automatically receive TRICARE benefits, which cover health costs found “medically necessary” for your condition.  SSDI recipients qualify for Medicare benefits which start two years after Social Security finds you disabled.  Medicare covers a variety of medical costs, usually regardless of a specific condition.  SSI recipients receive Medicaid benefits.  If you receive both TRICARE and Medicare, Medicare becomes your primary insurance.  However, if you receive both TRICARE and Medicaid, TRICARE becomes your primary insurance. 

Can a veteran work and receive both VA and Social Security benefits?

If you are working, you may not qualify for Social Security disability.  Social Security considers work earnings over a certain amount “substantial gainful activity” or SGA and if you earn over the SGA limit, you will not qualify for Social Security disability.  For 2021, SGA is earnings $1,310 per month or more (before taxes).  You can still qualify for Social Security disability benefits if you earn less than SGA.  However, any work may make it harder for Social Security to approve your claim.  Unlike Social Security, veterans can work while receiving VA disability benefits unless you receive Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU.)   

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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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