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Can a Veteran Receive Both VA and Social Security Benefits?

Can a Veteran Receive Both VA and Social Security Benefits?

Yes, it is possible for a veteran to receive both VA disability and SSDI benefits at the same time.  Receipt of VA disability benefits may impact your eligibility for Social Security benefits.  Continue reading to learn more.

The Social Security Administration and VA: Understanding the Difference

VA disability compensation is a monthly benefit paid to veterans by VA for disabilities they may have incurred as a result of their military service, or if a condition they had prior to service was aggravated by their time in the military.

VA Disability vs. Social Security Disability

The Social Security Administration pays benefits to those who qualify for SSDI (Social Security Disability Income) based on their work history.  To qualify, a person needs to have spent a certain period of time in “covered” employment where they paid Social Security taxes.

What Is the Difference Between VA Disability and Social Security Disability?

Though Social Security and VA have similar aims, there is a profound difference in the way that each system defines disability.  The biggest difference between VA and Social Security disability is that VA allows for gradations of disability, while Social Security is an all-or-nothing disability finding.

With VA, each component of your disability is given a rating based on the severity of the condition.  So if, for example, you have a weak knee; an elbow that does not work right; and a bad back, and VA finds those conditions to be service-connected, then you would receive a separate disability rating for your knee, your elbow, and your back.

With Social Security, a person is either 100 percent disabled or not.  If you receive approval for Social Security Disability and the SSA finds that you are engaging in substantially gainful employment (or making more than $750 a month for SSI), the SSA will rescind your benefit award.

How Do VA Benefits Affect Social Security?

There are two types of Social Security disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

SSDI only counts earned income; therefore, VA disability benefits have no effect on entitlement to SSDI.

However, SSI is need-based; any contribution from VA disability benefits will count towards income for the month.  The income limit for SSI for 2023 is $914 per month.  If you receive more than $914 in VA disability each month, you will not qualify for SSI.

Social Security (SSDI, SSI) & VA Disability Benefits Offsets Explained

In addition, VA disability will also lower your SSI payment.  Because the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers VA disability compensation as income, it will subtract anything you receive from your potential benefit.  This is called an offset.

For example, if you have a 20 percent disability rating and receive $269.30 a month from VA, then the SSA will deduct that from your potential monthly benefit.  You would then only be eligible to receive $644.70 in SSI benefits.

If I Qualify for VA Disability, Will I Automatically Qualify for Social Security Disability?

No. You must qualify for each disability benefit separately.  Winning approval for one type of benefit does little to nothing to boost your chances of getting another.

If VA grants you a disability rating, it does not mean that an approval for Social Security Disability will follow, or vice versa.  Remember, VA system awards benefits for varying degrees of disability, while the SSA system makes a determination of disabled or not disabled.

If the SSA approves you for SSDI or SSI, then you still must prove to VA that your condition is service connected, which is not always easy.  Without sufficient evidence, VA can call into question whether your medical condition arose as a result of an event in your military service or is otherwise related to your military service.

Note: If you have a Permanent and Total disability rating from VA, then you can receive expedited processing for an SSI or SSDI claim.

Requirements for SSDI and VA Disability Benefits
Income and Work Requirements

There are also different requirements for each.  For VA disability benefits, you must demonstrate:

  • A current diagnosis of a qualifying condition; and
  • An in-service event, injury, or illness; and
  • A nexus between that diagnosis and the in-service event.

To receive SSDI, you must show:

  • You have a medical condition that the SSA finds potentially disabling; and
  • An inability to engage in substantially gainful employment; and
  • You have a sufficient work history and have paid a minimum amount into Social Security via your payroll taxes.

To receive SSI, you must show:

  • You are disabled, blind, a child under 18, or an adult over 65; and
  • You have limited income and assets.

Why File for VA Disability Benefits if You Already Receive SSDI?

At this point, you might wonder, if you are already receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, why file for VA disability?  But there are many reasons filing for VA disability is worth the struggle.

In contrast to SSDI, VA disability has no age limit.  The Social Security Administration terminates all disability benefits when the recipient reaches retirement age, 65 years old.  The recipient then receives Social Security Retirement instead of SSDI.

Within VA, however, there is no age limit for disability benefits.  A veteran could be 80 years old, for example, and still receive VA disability benefits.  Even after retirement age, veterans can still apply for and receive disability benefits.

VA disability is tax-free and does not offset SSDI benefits.  With some government benefits, there are “double-dipping” rules that require participants to subtract the amount of one benefit from the other government benefits they receive.  With SSDI and VA disability, this is not the case.  The money you receive for VA disability compensation will not be taxed and will not affect the payment amounts of other benefits.

During the VA claims process, benefits accumulate.  Though the VA disability process can be frustratingly slow, if the veteran wins, then they will be paid retroactive benefits.  This means the benefits are awarded based on the effective date.

What is the Difference Between SSDI and VA Pension?

In addition to VA disability compensation and SSDI, there are two other disability programs run by the VA and the SSA – VA Pension and Social Security Insurance (SSI).  VA pension and SSI are designed for individuals who are disabled and have a low income (i.e., below the federal poverty level).

VA Pension and Eligibility Explained

Unlike VA disability compensation, the veteran’s disability does not have to be service connected to be eligible for VA pension.  All the veteran must prove is that they cannot work because of a disability; that they served during a wartime period; and that they meet the income level requirements.

Both SSI and VA Pension are needs-based programs, meaning that eligible applicants cannot have any other income above the threshold.  If they are making money from a part-time job or getting regular Social Security benefits, then their SSI or VA pension compensation amounts will be reduced dollar for dollar.

Contact Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD for a Free Case Evaluation

We want to help you get the highest amount of disability benefits possible.  Learn more about our veteran law firm or discuss your case with us today to see if we can help you get the benefits you deserve.  Call us today for a free case evaluation at (800) 544-9144 with a member of our legal team.