Serving in the military is a decision that impacts every aspect of your life — including financial, social and health issues. And while the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers disability benefits to help relieve some issues, sometimes, it isn’t enough. Fortunately, some veterans may be entitled to Social Security disability (SSD) benefits as well. Combining these two monthly checks can ease the financial burden of becoming disabled tremendously — for veterans and their loved ones.
What’s the Difference Between Monthly VA Disability and SSD Benefits?
Partially disabled vets may qualify for VA disability benefits, but the SSA has different eligibility qualifications than the military uses. The VA pays benefits to disabled vets according to where each individual’s disability rating falls on a scale from 10-100%. So, 100% permanently and totally disabled veterans receive higher monthly payments than individuals given a 40% or 60% disability rating. The good news is that anyone with 100% VA disability rating may also qualify for monthly SSD benefits.
The SSA determines your monthly SSD amount using your highest average paychecks from your work history — not your disability rating. And in order to qualify for SSD benefits, your condition must fit the SSA’s very strict internal definition of disabled. To medically qualify for SSD benefits, you must first meet both of the following eligibility criteria:
- Due to your medical condition(s), you cannot do substantial work. This means you cannot perform your usual job tasks or find employment that fits your physical, emotional or mental limitations.
- Your treating physician expects your medical condition(s) to last at least 12 continuous months, or result in your death.
Active military duty and service pay won’t prevent you from qualifying for monthly SSD benefits. However, the SSA will also evaluate your current work activity to make sure it falls within the “substantial work” restriction. If your job meets the SSA’s definition of “substantial work,” the agency may deny your SSD benefits application. However, the SSA looks specifically at your work activity, not how much you’re getting paid — or your military status.
Also note that veterans who qualify for both VA disability and SSD benefits will get two separate payments each month.
How Disabled Veterans Can Apply for SSD Benefits
You can apply for SSD benefits at any time, whether you’re still on active military duty or after you’re discharged. Veterans in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities or undergoing outpatient treatment may also apply for SSD benefits. You may apply for SSD benefits:
- Online through the SSA’s website
- In person at your nearest Social Security office
- By mail
- Via telephone
Some disabled veterans eligible for SSD benefits may also qualify to get their claims expedited. This expedited claim process applies to any veterans who became disabled while on active military duty on or after 10/1/2001.
Related: Can You Get Social Security Benefits for ADHD?
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Navigating the Social Security disability benefits application process is notoriously difficult for everyone. Disabled veterans planning to file a SSD benefits claim should talk to a Social Security attorney or disability advocate first. An experienced SSD lawyer can determine whether or not you may qualify for VA disability and SSD benefits every month.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free benefits evaluation online now:
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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.