Neither Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) nor service-connected disability compensation (VA benefits) has limits on your resources to qualify, which means you can draw both at the same time. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—another disability program—is income-based, meaning you are unlikely to qualify if you draw both SSDI and VA benefits.
The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) rules outlining how to qualify for SSD and VA benefits are complex. If you believe you may meet the criteria or need help securing the benefits you deserve, Berger and Green can help. We offer complimentary case reviews.
What Is the Difference in the SSA’s Definition of Disability and a Veteran’s Disability?
SSD programs only payout for applicants who suffer from a total disability and cannot work or earn a living because of their impairments. Service-connected VA benefits, on the other hand, payout depending on the veteran’s disability rating. Veterans receive a rating between zero and 100 percent, with those who receive a rating of ten percent or above qualifying for compensation.
This means many people who receive VA benefits will not qualify for SSD benefits because they may be able to still work and earn a living wage. Disabled veterans who are unable to work, whether or not they receive a 100 percent disability rating from the VA may still qualify for SSD benefits. This is because the two programs use different criteria to determine impairments.
There is also the chance that a veteran’s disability is not connected to their service but prevents them from working. For example, imagine you suffered a permanent foot injury in the military. You could still work certain jobs, but it left you with chronic pain. Suppose VA gave you a disability rating of 30 percent. Later on, though, you developed COPD unrelated to your service. Your VA disability rating would not change, but you might meet the SSA’s definition of disabled based on your breathing impairment and your foot injury.
For a free legal consultation, call 412-661-1400
How the Social Security Administration Defines Disabled
In order to be considered disabled by the Social Security Administration, you must have a physical or mental impairment that can be diagnosed by a doctor. Additionally, a doctor must determine that you will have this disability for at least a year or be likely to die from it. Finally, your condition must also stop you from earning a living.
How do I Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?
You generally will qualify for SSD benefits if you meet the following eligibility requirements in Pennsylvania, Ohio, or anywhere else in the United States:
- You are a disabled worker by the SSA standards reviewed above.
- You are under retirement age (66 years old).
- You have made a sufficient amount of FICA contributions via taxes on your earned income.
The Social Security Administration will evaluate your eligibility based on your age and documented work history. The agency generally requires that you have worked for a certain amount of time and have a work history that is considered recent per their guidelines.
How do I Qualify for VA Benefits?
Basic eligibility requirements for VA benefits are that you have an injury or illness that affects your physical or mental state and that you served in the US military on active duty, active duty training, or inactive duty training.
After that, you must meet at least one of the following criteria:
- In-Service Disability: Your sickness or injury occurred while you were serving.
- Preservice Disability: You were injured or ill before joining the military, and serving made your condition worse.
- Postservice Disability: Your disability is connected to your active-duty service, but it didn’t show up until after your service ended.
Our attorneys can help you understand your eligibility status and how each program’s disability definition applies to you.
Complete a Free Case Evaluation form now
Health Care Coverage Available Under SSA and VA Benefits
Both SSD and VA disability benefits provide medical coverage. People receiving SSD are automatically enrolled in Medicaid after two years of receiving benefits. If you are also receiving VA benefits, you will receive access to health care right away. VA health care covers treatment and health services at VA facilities around the country. Under certain circumstances, it also covers care at non-VA hospitals and medical facilities if approval is given (unless in cases of emergency).
Some veterans who can receive VA disability benefits also receive through the military’s TRICARE health coverage. VA health coverage, in some cases, supplements the TRICARE coverage. It is also possible to have both TRICARE and Medicare coverage through the SSD, but Medicare will act as your primary insurance and TRICARE the supplemental insurance.
Our attorneys will help ensure that you apply for and receive any SSD and VA health benefits for which you are qualified.
Does Having a Military Disability Rating Influence My SSD Claim?
When the SSA is reviewing an application for benefits from a veteran, they will request medical records from VA or the Department of Defense in the same way they would any other medical provider. These records include information about the veteran’s service-connected impairments. In this way, they can influence the decision about SSD benefits. However, the SSA does not allow VA’s decisions regarding benefits to directly impact a decision about SSD.
This means that there is no guarantee you will receive SSD approval even if you have a 100 percent disability rating from VA. The disability examiner will, however, see the same proof of impairments VA saw when they made your disability determination.
For example, if your medical records show you lost both legs in combat and suffered complications that limit your use of prosthetics, VA may rate you 100 percent disabled. When you apply for SSD benefits, the SSA will review the same medical records and see that you have limited mobility because of your injuries. They may reach the same conclusion as VA based on the same evidence, despite the fact that they did not take VA’s rating into account.
Do Veterans Qualify for Expedited SSD Claims?
In some cases, veterans may qualify for an expedited disability claim evaluation. This occurs through two programs.
The 100 Percent Permanent and Total Veterans Initiative
Veterans who receive a 100 Percent Permanent and Total disability rating can qualify for expedited processing of their application for SSD benefits. This requires notifying the disability examiner assigned to your claim that you hold a 100 percent P&T rating and including documentation of your VA rating when you file your claim.
The Wounded Warriors Initiative
The Wounded Warriors program offers expedited SSD claims processing for veterans who suffered physical or mental injuries while on active duty. This is available for veterans who suffered their injuries after October 1, 2001. Any active duty, service-connected injury qualifies. To receive expedited processing through this initiative, you will need to tell your disability examiner that you suffered your injuries while on active duty.
Our lawyers can help you notify the SSA if you qualify for either of these programs so you can receive the benefits you need faster.
Our Law Firm’s Focus Is Disability
Our law firm serving Pennsylvania and Ohio concentrates on disability and personal injury. Founding Partner Cynthia J. Berger has evaluated more than 50,000 Social Security Disability claims throughout her career.
Amongst her credentials, she is also a former president of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR). The NOSSCR is the largest organization of attorneys advocating for the rights of the disabled to receive Social Security Disability benefits.
Attorney Berger leads our team of disability lawyers who are passionate about helping those no longer able to work. We put all of that experience to work for you when you put your trust in us.
How Can I Learn More About My SSD and VA Benefits?
If you have questions about how you can get SSD and VA benefits, the Pittsburgh attorneys at Berger and Green are here to help. Understanding how SSA programs can work in conjunction with your VA benefits is sometimes complicated, but we can help you get the full amount of benefits you deserve. Call us today, and let us help you with your claim.