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Question of the Month: Can I Qualify for Both VA and Social Security Disability Benefits?

November 7, 2017

The Veteran’s Administration (VA) and Social Security Administration (SSA) are separate organizations and are independent from one another.  Each has its own criteria for disability payments. It is possible to qualify for both VA disability benefits and Social Security disability benefits and, in fact, many Vets receive both. However, there are important distinctions you need to know if you are applying for both programs.

One of the main differences between the two benefit programs is that to receive Social Security Disability, you have to be totally disabled and unable to perform any work that you have done in the past, or any other work, considering factors such as your age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity.  In addition, your disability must have lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months, or result in your death. Under SSA rules, there are no payments for partial disability or short-term disability lasting less than a year.

Under VA disability criteria, however, you may be eligible for benefits even if you are partially disabled. Disability payments to veterans are made based on the degree of the disability. With respect to Service-connected benefits, the VA gives a disability rating to each injury, illness, or disease. By law, the VA has the authority to assign disability ratings from 0% to 100% in 10% increments. You are considered totally disabled when you carry a 100% rating or found to be unemployable.

Veterans who cannot prove their disability arose from an injury in service or was diagnosed during their service can under some circumstances file a claim for Non-service connected benefits.  The VA’s pension program pays benefits to certain wartime veterans and their survivors.  For more information on this program, review this VA literature.  Note that the VA pension benefit is need-based, so it can be offset by other benefits such as Disability Insurance.  It also might provide a higher benefit than SSI.

Many disabled Veterans who have been classified as 100% disabled by the VA are understandably confused when Social Security turns them down for disability benefits on the grounds that they are not totally disabled. This happens frequently, because the SSA and the VA apply totally different criteria in determining disability.

If you would like more information on whether your medical conditions qualify for Social Security Disability or SSI, do not hesitate to call to speak with a Nash lawyer today.