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Disabled Veterans may also receive Social Security Disability

Many Veterans may not realize they can qualify to receive both VA Disability and Social Security Disability Insurance at the same time.

For disabled Veterans on disability, the extra income from SSDI can provide much-needed help. The two systems are different. It may be less confusing if people think of them as entirely separate programs.

Is SSDI the same as a Veteran's Permanent and Total Disability?

The programs are similar only in that the United States federal government administers both of them; otherwise, each program is an independent system. The term "disability" may not carry the same meaning across the two systems. Here are some of the differences.

Social Security Disability Income

  • Work Credits - Eligibility for Social Security Disability depends on the years an employee works. The Social Security Administration uses a formula to convert earnings into SSA work credits. A certain number of work credits are necessary over a specific period of years to apply for SSD.
  • Disability – The Social Security Administration requires a person to have a total disability that is severe and long-term. With SSA, either a person is 100% disabled or they are not disabled at all. There is nothing in between. Also, the person must have a specific disability listed under the SSD program. There is flexibility here depending on a person's condition. Some disabilities, such as those that cause pain or mental/emotional distress, may not show up on objective medical tests.

Veterans Disability Income

  • Military Service – Veterans qualify for Veterans Disability caused by or aggravated during active duty or training in one of the services. The disability must cause them to receive an honorable medical discharge.
  • Disability – Unlike SSDI's rule that a person is either disabled or not, the military assigns a percentage of disability. Suppose a veteran has a back injury, and he or she cannot stand. If the person can work with upper body strength or dexterity for a maximum of 3 hours a day, the program may consider them 70% disabled. They will receive 70% of their disability benefit entitlement. If a veteran is unable to work at all, the person's disability would be 100% permanent and total (also called 100% P&T).

Total Veterans Disability does not automatically grant a person access to SSDI. Be prepared for a lengthy experience with SSA. Most people receive rejections once or twice, then secure legal assistance and go before a judge. At that point, many people do receive SSDI. Patience, persistence and learning strategies to use when applying for SSDI is the key to obtaining all of the benefits available to veterans.

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Ronald E. Smith, P.C.

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