Can Veterans Receive Both VA Benefits and Social Security Income?

Navigating the landscape of benefits for veterans is often a complex task, particularly when it comes to understanding how different benefit systems interact. One common question is whether veterans can receive both Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and Social Security Income (SSI).

Fortunately, it is indeed possible for veterans to receive both VA benefits and SSI. However, VA benefits can impact the amount of SSI a veteran is eligible for. Still, many veterans find that applying for both can increase their overall income. Further, VA benefits will not impact the amount of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) you receive if you qualify for that program. Our firm understands how stressful recovering these benefits can be for veterans, which is why we are dedicated to fighting for the compensation your service has entitled you to.

For a free case review with our Arkansas disability attorneys, contact us by calling (479) 316-0438.

Can Veterans Receive VA Benefits and Social Security Income at the Same Time?

It is possible for veterans receiving disability benefits from the VA to also qualify for benefits from the SSA, although this eligibility depends on a few factors. The SSA provides two distinct benefit programs, namely Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). However, these benefits must be applied for separately, and even if one qualifies for one program, it does not guarantee automatic qualification for the other.

SSI and SSDI are both need-based programs, and additional income from VA benefits could potentially affect the actual cash benefit amount. In other words, even though you can apply for both benefits, receiving VA benefits will have a different impact on SSI and SSDI.

As SSI is a needs-based program, the amount of cash benefits received will be affected by any additional income from VA benefits. The SSA considers VA benefits as “unearned income” as they do not originate from employment. Consequently, VA benefits will be subtracted dollar for dollar from the recipient’s SSI payment amount, following a general exclusion of $20. Fortunately, all SSI beneficiaries are eligible for this exclusion, so the first $20 of earned or unearned income will not be counted against their SSI payment.

On the contrary, SSDI benefits are not influenced by unearned income through VA benefits. Thus, veterans receiving SSDI benefits will not see any reduction in their SSDI payment amount because of their VA benefits.

How is Disability Determined for VA Benefits?

According to the VA, a disability is a medical condition, both physical and mental, that impairs an individual’s ability to perform normal life functions to a significant degree, rendering them unable to engage in gainful employment. For a disability to qualify as service-connected, it must be connected to the veteran’s military service in some way, either directly caused by it, aggravated by it, or presumed to be related to it.

This means the disability must have occurred or worsened during active military service, training, or other military-related activities. Our disability attorneys can help determine if your condition qualifies and what other programs you can apply for. However, not all conditions that develop during military service qualify as service-connected disabilities but can still impact SSA benefits.

Service-Related Disability

A common example is when a veteran develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from experiences during active duty, it is considered as a service-connected disability. Similarly, if a pre-existing condition, such as a mild knee injury, was significantly worsened during service, it could also qualify as a service-connected disability.

If a disability is determined to be service-connected, the VA assigns a disability rating. This rating is expressed as a percentage and represents the severity of the disability and its impact on the veteran’s daily life. To do this, the VA uses a schedule of ratings based on the average impairment in earning capacity caused by the disability.

These ratings range from 10% to 100%, with higher percentages indicating more severe disabilities. However, the ratings do not always reflect the medical severity of the condition but rather its impact on the veteran’s ability to work. The VA considers various factors to determine the rating of a service-connected disability, including your medical evidence, work history, and the impact of the disability on your daily life.

Non-Service Disability

The VA also provides benefits for non-service disabilities through the VA pension program. Like the others, this program is income-based and is available to veterans who have served during a period of war and are now permanently and totally disabled because of non-service-connected conditions. To be eligible for this benefit, veterans must meet certain income and net worth limits.

The good news is that veterans approved for SSI or SSDI are still eligible for the VA pension. To qualify for this benefit, however, you must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable and generally need to show that you served for at least 90 days, with at least one day of service during a wartime period. However, veterans who entered the military after 1980 might have longer service requirements.

How Does the SSA Define Disability?

SSI and SSDI benefits do not have any requirements that a Veteran’s disability should be connected to their military service. They also do not consider the discharge status or follow a graduated payment scale. The SSA instead follows a five-step evaluation process to determine if an individual meets their definition of disability.

The SSA first determines whether the individual engages in substantial gainful activity (SGA). If the individual is currently working and making more than a certain amount, the SSA generally will not consider them disabled.

The SSA then evaluates the severity of the individual’s condition. To be considered disabled, the condition must significantly limit the individual’s ability to perform basic work activities for at least 12 months.

The SSA maintains a list of medical conditions that are so severe they automatically mean the individual is disabled. If the condition is on this list, the individual will usually be considered disabled. If not, the SSA moves to the next step.

The SSA next assesses whether the claimant’s medical condition prevents them from performing any of their past work. If the SSA determines that you can still perform some past work, then your claim might be denied. If the SSA determines that the claimant’s medical condition prevents them from performing their past work, the process proceeds to the final step.

Lastly, the SSA evaluates whether the claimant can perform any other type of work despite their medical condition. If the SSA determines that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition, your claim will likely be approved.

Our VA and SSA Disability Lawyers Are Here to Help Veterans Get the Benefits They Deserve

Call us at (479) 316-0438 to receive your free case evaluation with our disability lawyers.