There are close to 4 million US Veterans that currently experience some form of disability. Of these 4 million, about 1 million have a VA disability rating of 70 or higher. This means that their condition prevents them from working of living as normal healthy people do.
It is true, VA benefits are designed to provide monthly supplements in proportion to one’s disability, but for some Veterans that have severe conditions, they may require extra assistance. In this case, Social Security disability benefits may be an option. Veterans can qualify for both VA benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
Requirements of SSDI
Although VA benefits and SSDI are both government programs, their requirements and benefits vary slightly. This is because:
- VA benefits are awarded on a percentage-based system: SSDI, on the other hand, is only awarded to people who qualify as “totally and permanently disabled” (similar to a VA rating of 70% or higher)
- VA benefits are only available to disabled veterans: SSDI is available to all Americans who require assistance for their disabilities, making a program a bit pickier when deciding who does/doesn’t qualify.
- Disability for VA is determined by doctors for the VA Disability program: SSDI cannot mimic this evaluation for the entire American populace, leaving applicants to provide as much specific certified evidence as possible when making their case.
To find out if your condition meets the higher requirements of SSDI, you can consult the Blue Book that can be found on the Social Security website. In this book, you will find a list of all conditions and the requirements for each needed in order to qualify for disability benefits. While some entries are rather simple and only require a diagnosis to qualify, others can be more broad, complicated, or filled with uncommon medical terms. Before you apply, be sure and contact your doctor for updated tests and medical records to discuss your qualifications.
Benefits of Receiving SSDI and a Veteran
Most US residents see nothing but benefits after qualifying for SSDI. However, veterans, in particular, receive special perks from the application process onward as a “thank you” for their selfless service to our nation.
An expedited application: Most applicants experience a lengthy claims process that can take anywhere from a few months to over a year.
However, all military service members who became disabled while on active military service on or after October 1, 2001 receive an accelerated application process. This means, unlike most, you could receive your benefits decision in a matter of weeks after your application.
Increased chance of qualification: For veterans with a VA rating of 70% or higher, the SSA is much more likely to award benefits. This is because the Veterans Association (another government program) has already recognized you as severely disabled and unable to work, further supporting your need for benefits.
Continued military pay without affecting eligibility. Most SSDI recipients are prevented from earning money through work because it may disqualify them from disability benefits. However, many veterans receive military pay from non-work activity, which does not count towards benefit disqualification.
Medicare and TRICARE benefits awarded simultaneously. Medicare, which is awarded to both disabled and retired Americans, is one of the best government-provided health care plans in the country. While TRICARE does benefit millions of veterans, Medicare awarded through SSDI provides more coverage. This doesn’t mean TRICARE benefits go away — in fact, TRICARE continues to cover extra costs by functioning as your secondary insurance.
Starting the Application
SSDI applications can be started whenever you are ready by visiting the SSA’s main website. Here, you can also find FAQs and paperwork lists to assist you during the process.
Aside from normal medical and financial papers, besides to have the following prepared before applying:
- Form DD 214 (if you were formally discharged)
- Proof of military pay or workers’ compensation
- Any military medical records that support your disability (medical tests, physician’s notes, therapy documentation, etc.)
If you require assistance in filling out your application, you may want to consider a free consultation with a local disability attorney.
Their experience can further simplify the process by organizing paperwork, keeping in contact with the SSA, and helping fight on your behalf to get you the benefits you deserve.
We can help you to determine if you are eligible and help you in what could be a long and difficult process. Here you will find some valuable resources to help you not only to understand the Social Security process better but also to help you assess your situation.
To better understand the Social Security Disability Process, you can read our Social Security Disability Listings or our frequently asked questions. If you want to find out if you are eligible for Social Security Disability, take our quick evaluation.