Can I Collect Both Social Security Disability and VA Disability?
How to Get Both Social Security Disability and VA Disability
Many people who come to us for help after finding themselves unable to work have served in the military as well as having worked in the civilian world. If that describes you – and if your service-related injuries or conditions are part of the reason you now cannot work – you may be able to collect Social Security disability AND veterans disability benefits at the same time. In fact, according to a recent AARP article, “More than 950,000 former service members received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in 2016.”
Social Security Disability vs. VA Disability
The two programs have many differences.
The VA system looks at what happened to you while you were in the military and the medical diagnoses that result from those occurrences. It then “rates” you based on a set list of impairment percentages for each of those diagnoses or conditions you are found to have by assigning a certain percentage to the extent of your disability, anywhere from 10% to 100%. The VA then pays benefits based on that level of impairment, anywhere from just over $100 to well over $3,000 per month.
Most disabled veterans have a number of different conditions that qualify for ratings. The VA will assign a separate, individual rating to each impairment, say, for example, maybe 10% for a bad knee, 20% for a bad back, and 50% for PTSD. It will then use a table that takes into account each of these individual ratings to arrive at a total overall rating. This does not mean that your individual ratings are just added up; even if the sum of your individual ratings is over 100%, that does not mean that your overall rating will be 100%. Your overall rating depends on the type and severity of each individual rating.
Social Security Disability
The SSA system does not care so much when or how your impairments arose, or even what their formal medical diagnosis might be. They are concerned primarily with the functional effects of your medical and mental health conditions. In a nutshell, if you are too sick (mentally, physically, or both) to work more than a minimal amount, then you can qualify for benefits. The whole system is a lot more complicated than that, but that’s the gist of it. And the issue of what type of benefits (SSDI versus SSI) is another issue entirely. But if you can’t work and you qualify under one or both of those programs, you can collect benefits.
Furthermore, the SSA system does not allow for partial or percentage levels of disability. You’re either totally disabled (and entitled to benefits) or not disabled (and not entitled to benefits). There is no middle ground, and there is no “sliding scale” for being more or less severely impaired. Your benefit is based on the amount you paid into the system while you were working, not how badly off you are now. On average, SSD beneficiaries receive around $1,280/month as of 2021.
It Can Get Complicated
Keep in mind, both Social Security disability and VA disability are far more complicated than this simple summary. That’s why it pays to talk with an experienced North Carolina Social Security disability lawyer.
But the bottom line is this:
If you qualify for both VA and SSA benefits, you get to keep the full total amount of both without any reduction or offset. The programs are independent from one another.
Health Care Coverage
Then, there is also the important issue of health care coverage. For many of our clients, having ongoing coverage for their chronic medical and mental health problems is almost as important as the monthly cash benefits they receive.
Health Benefits for Veterans
Veterans who qualify for both VA Disability and Social Security Disability can often take advantage of both systems for ongoing care. Veterans can be covered under the “Tricare” program and receive care through the VA’s system of hospitals and other facilities.
Health Benefits for SSDI Recipients
SSDI recipients are eligible to participate in Medicare just as though they were 65 years old, once they have been collecting SSDI benefits for two years. They still have to pay for some of the coverage options out of their benefit but having coverage under both systems can be a huge help.
Benefit Limits for Those Receiving Both SSDI and VA Disability
In past posts we have talked about the eligibility requirements for SSI. In simple terms, you must be both disabled and have little or no income or property to qualify. If your VA rating entitles you to more than about $800/month in benefits, or if your VA benefits plus all other sources of income are at or above that level, then you likely will not qualify for both VA Disability and SSI benefits. If your VA benefit is less than that, you could still qualify for a partial SSI benefit (i.g. some amount less than $800/month).
Finally, veterans should know that the VA offers them a wide array of benefits, both cash and otherwise. Many of them are unrelated to a veteran’s level of disability, and some are designed to help veterans who have become destitute or homeless after their time of service. For instance, some veterans qualify for funeral benefits. You should contact the VA directly if you think you might qualify for some of these other, non-disability benefits. Again, these benefits are totally independent from your SSDI or SSI benefits from the Social Security Administration.
Need Help with Veterans Disability and/or Social Security Disability?
Our experienced North Carolina disability lawyers and North Carolina VA disability attorneys are ready to help. The Riddle & Brantley disability team is led by Scott Scurfield, a Board-Certified Specialist in Social Security Disablity law and a VA-accredited attorney.
Scott and his team have helped hundreds of veterans and civilians alike get their disability benefits — both from the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
For a FREE consultation with an experienced attorney handling Social Security disability and VA disability claims, please call 1-800-525-7111 or complete the form below.
There is no obligation, and you won’t pay any attorney fees unless we get you the benefits you need and deserve. Call 1-800-525-7111 and let’s review your claim.
Justice Counts for North Carolinians with disabilities, and we would love to help you get the Social Security disability and/or veterans benefits that you need and deserve.