Social Security Benefits & Veterans

How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits the Same Time as VA Benefits

If you are a veteran who is disabled, you may qualify for both Veterans Administration (VA) benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) administered through the Social Security Administration (SSA). While both are disability programs administered by government agencies, both programs have very different criteria that must be met for an applicant to be approved for benefits. You can qualify for both VA benefits and SSDI if you meet the specific criteria established for both programs.

You can have pending applications with both agencies at the same time, or you might be approved for one program and awaiting approval for the other. VA benefits are provided for disabilities related to your military service only, and you don’t have to be totally disabled. Your VA benefits are based on the severity of your service-related disability and the compensation rating it receives.

Because there aren’t financial requirements that must be met to receive VA benefits, you can receive VA benefits along with another form of disability benefits at the same time. To receive SSDI, you must have worked enough to earn adequate credits – usually this is the equivalent of 5 years full-time out of the last 10 years. You must be completely disabled for at least a year, or have a condition expected to result in death. All your medical issues are considered together – regardless of whether they are related to your military service or not.

The Disability Approval Process

The VA will review your medical records associated with your military service. If you get approved for VA benefits first, it will not necessarily help your SSDI claim. At one time, getting a high compensability rating from the VA, such as 70 percent or more, would lead to additional consideration. The new regulations published by the SSA in 2017 indicate that the SSA will not take VA benefit approvals into consideration for an SSDI application, but the SSA will review any evidence the VA considered when making their decision. The SSA will use Department of Defense (DOD) or VA evidence to expedite SSDI claims for veterans who are Wounded Warriors or who have a 100% compensability rating through the VA.

The VA doesn’t give special deference to an approval for SSDI, the VA Is required by law to consider the records that the SSA had to review regarding your condition. The medical records reviewed by the SSA could prove beneficial by offering key evidence that might help the VA render a favorable decision for your claim. While you could have a lower compensability rating – such as 5% or 10% through the VA – you could be declared fully disabled by the SSA. The SSA will consider your service-related disability, such as a back problem or lung disease, and they will also consider medical problems not associated with your military service, such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and heart problems.

The Application Process

If you have applied for VA benefits, you should also apply for SSD. SSDI benefits are based on the claimant’s work history – so your eligibility also relies on the credits you have earned from working. In most instances, you must have worked 5 years full-time out of the last 10 years. If you wait too long, you will start losing credits and you will become ineligible for SSDI. The application process for Social Security disability benefits is fairly straightforward. You have the option of applying online on the SSA’s website or you can do so in person at a Social Security office. After you send in your application, you should hear back from the SSA regarding your claim within three to five months.

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