When you are unable to work due to illness or injury, every penny counts. It is possible to receive both Social Security disability (SSD) and disability benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, each program has different eligibility requirements, and you must apply for both types of assistance separately.
Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits
Social Security is considered an entitlement program. Social Security disability benefits are paid for with the taxes that workers pay under the Self-Employment Contributions Act and the Federal Insurance Contributions Act.
To qualify for Social Security disability benefits:
- You must have a sufficient number of work credits from an employer covered by Social Security.
- You must suffer from a disability that has lasted one year or is expected to last one year or more and/or result in your death.
- You have a physical or mental health condition that prevents you from engaging in substantially gainful activity.
Once approved for benefits, you are not allowed to earn over a certain dollar amount per month from employment.
Note that the definition of disability set by the Social Security Administration (SSA) is narrower than what most people consider to be disabled. A condition that does not affect your ability to work is not considered a disability, even if your doctor believes it has a negative impact on your overall quality of life.
The payments you receive for SSD are not based on your specific mental or physical disability. They are calculated based on your earnings during the time you were able to work.
Qualifying for Veterans Disability Benefits
VA disability benefits are considered an obligation the country owes veterans for their service. Benefits are paid for out of the VA budget and not any specific tax paid by veterans.
To qualify for veterans disability benefits:
- You must not have been dishonorably discharged.
- You have one or more disabling conditions that can be connected to your service.
- You can continue to work and earn as much as your health allows, as long as you are not receiving TDIU benefits.
Veterans have their disabling conditions ranked on a percentage scale, where higher percentages mean a higher monthly payment. However, the average monthly payment for people receiving veterans disability benefits is more than double what most people who receive SSD benefits can expect to receive.
Receiving Concurrent Benefits
If you believe you qualify for both types of disability benefits, you should complete the application process for each program. However, it is important to note that being approved for one type of benefit doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll qualify for the other. Consider the following:
- If you have a low percentage rating for VA disability benefits, the SSA may deny your application because you are still able to engage in substantially gainful activity.
- If you are considered disabled by the SSA, the VA may determine your condition is not service-related and thus doesn’t qualify for benefits.
The VA is required to consider your SSD record as evidence in your claim, although no special weight is given to the SSA’s determination. The SSA previously took VA approvals into account when awarding benefits, but this changed in 2017 and VA decisions are no longer considered.
Receiving VA disability benefits will not reduce your SSD benefits because neither program is need-based. However, veterans who are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from Social Security may find their benefits reduced when they are approved for VA disability. SSI is a need-based program that is only available for those with very low incomes and limited financial resources.
If You’ve Been Denied Social Security Disability Benefits
If you’ve been denied SSD benefits, you need to speak with an experienced SSD attorney as soon as possible. At Alperin Law, we are well-equipped to handle SSD applications and appeals as well as veterans disability claims. We will work to ensure that you receive every possible benefit you need to provide for yourself and your family. Please contact us online or call our Virginia Beach office directly at 757.490.3500 to schedule your free consultation. We have offices throughout Virginia including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk and Suffolk.