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June Question of the Month

June 7, 2017

I was wounded while on military service overseas. Can I receive Social Security disability benefits in addition to my VA disability benefits?

Unfortunately, too many wounded vets are unaware that they have a right to apply for, and receive, Social Security disability benefits. At Nash Disability Law, we are proud of our record of helping current and former members of our Armed Forces obtain the Social Security disability benefits they have earned.

Because service-connected VA disability benefits are not income-based, vets can receive those benefits and qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits at the same time. There is also the VA Pension which is a needs-based assistance program. Similarly, Social Security offers the needs-based Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. These two programs can provide modest benefits to veterans who have little or no income, but vets may not be able to receive both of those need-based benefits at once.

It is important to note that Social Security and the VA evaluate disability differently. To be eligible for VA compensation you do not have to be totally disabled. In fact, most vets who are awarded disability payments are not 100 percent disabled. The VA evaluates an individual’s disability and assigns a rating from 0 percent to 100 percent (in 10 percent increments) and pays benefits proportionately. Social Security, on the other hand, only pays benefits for total disability which prevents a person from being able to work and has lasted or is expected to last 12 months or more. Receipt of one benefit does not automatically mean the receipt of another. For example, a veteran who has a VA Compensation Rating of 100% Permanent and Total may be denied for SSDI benefits. However, another veteran who has a VA rating of 50% may be granted SSDI benefits. It is completely dependent on the facts of each case.

Last year the VA announced a new initiative which enables the VA and the Social Security Administration (SSA) to share medical records electronically and speed up the process for vets who apply for Social Security disability benefits. More information for veterans about applying for disability benefits can be found on the SSA’s website.