Getting Both Social Security and VA Veterans Disability Benefits

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You can get both Social Security and VA Veterans disability benefits.  In fact, disabled veterans often apply for both types of benefits.  However, there are differences between Social Security and VA disability benefits. 

What is the difference between Social Security and VA Veterans disability benefits?

Social Security has two types of disability benefits. Social Security disability insurance benefits (SSDI) require that you have worked.  Unlike SSDI, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits don’t require that you’ve worked.  However, you must meet certain financial requirements.  The VA offers veterans disability benefits only for individuals who have served in the armed forces. 

Social Security vs. VA Veterans disability benefits

SSDI and SSI have the same definition of disability.  You must have medical conditions that keep you from working. You must be unable to work for at least 12 months.  Social Security doesn’t award partial disability.  VA disability requires that your medical conditions are connected to your service.  Unlike Social Security, VA disability does award partial disability benefits.  VA disability compensation rates range from 10-100%, in 10% increments. 

Can I work and receive Social Security or VA Veterans disability 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.  If you earn over the SGA limit, you will not qualify for Social Security disability.  For 2020, SGA is earnings S1,260 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 they receive Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU.)   

Do my VA Veterans disability benefits affect my Social Security disability?

VA veterans disability benefits don’t affect your SSDI payments.  You can receive both VA and SSDI payments at the same time.  However, VA benefits will reduce your SSI payments.  SSA considers VA benefits as “unearned income.”  Social Security will deduct unearned income on a dollar for dollar basis except for a $20 exclusion.  In other words, Social Security reduces your SSI benefits by the amount of your VA payments. 

Social Security and the VA follow different rules.  Getting approved for one doesn’t increase your chances of getting approved for the other.  However, Social Security considers evidence from the VA.  Similarly, the VA considers your Social Security records.   

Expedited Social Security disability claims for veterans

Fortunately, Social Security can fast-track certain cases for veterans by expediting the process for veterans with a 100% VA rating.  You should identify as a “Veteran rated 100% P&T: when filing your application.  You should also provide 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.  

Social Security application process

Firstly, Social Security considers their listing of impairments, known as the Blue Book.  Secondly, the Blue Book has very specific medical requirements.  Thirdly, it can be very difficult to meet one of the listings.  Finally, Social Security considers your residual functional capacity or RFC.  An RFC includes both physical and mental limitations. 

  1. Social Security looks at your medical evidence to figure out your RFC. 
  2. They ask you to attend an appointment with one of their doctors, sends you for an exam when they need more information about your conditions. 

VA veterans disability application process

Veterans go through a VA-directed medical review.  The VA uses military doctors and other health personnel to evaluate veterans for their disability.   Similarly to SSDI, the VA may ask you to attend a VA claim exam, known as a C&P exam. 

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.”

Example 1:  applying the grid rules over 50

For example, Jane, a 54 year old veteran, applied for disability due to degenerative disc disease and right shoulder impairment.  She previously worked as an x-ray technician.  Jane received a lot of treatment at the VA hospital.  However, she had surgery at a civilian hospital.  Her medical records included documentation that Jane had difficulty standing and walking.  She also had trouble using her right arm.  Social Security found that she could not return to work as an x-ray technician.  Since she is over the age of 50, Social Security applied the grid rules and approved Jane’s claim. 

Example 2:  applying the grid rules over 55

As another example, Scott, a 59 year old veteran, applied for disability due to arthritis in his hips.  He previously worked as a construction worker.  Scott needed a hip replacement and needed a cane for walking.  Social Security reviewed his records from the VA.  They determined that he could not return to work as a construction worker.  Since he couldn’t return to his past work, the grid rules allowed Social Security to approve his claim. 

Getting help with your Social Security and VA veterans disability claims

Hiring an experienced disability advocate can increase your chances of getting approved.  Firstly, your advocate helps you with your application and can make sure you provide all necessary information.  Secondly, your advocate walks you through the process.  Thirdly, they can answer all of your questions and help you understand all of the rules.  Last, your advocate knows what it takes to get your case approved, you need an expert on your side.

Disability Help Group, Call Now for a Free Case Review, 800-800-3332

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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.