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SSDI vs. VA Disability

How to Qualify for SSDI While Receiving VA Benefits

by Guest Contributor, Disability Benefits Help

The United States is home to around 22.8 million veterans. Of these, around 8 million receive VA benefits for a variety of disorders or injuries sustained while on active duty. However, for those with severe conditions, sometimes VA benefits may not be enough to provide proper support.

If you are in financial or medical need despite your VA benefits, you may be able to qualify for Social Security disability in addition to your current benefits

Differences Between VA Disability and SSDI

Qualifying for disability benefits is a bit different when you are applying for a program available to all Americans. The first difference between the programs is that there is no sliding scale of qualification. For instance, when VA disability is determined, an applicant will receive a disability percentage anywhere from 10% to 100%. This percentage determines the severity of an applicant’s disability and also determines the amount of benefits they will receive. SSDI, on the other hand, is an all-or-nothing benefits program.

This means that, in order to qualify, applicants must prove that their condition leaves them “totally and permanently disabled”, warranting substantial monthly support. In most cases, this can be demonstrated with a VA disability rating of 70% or higher — in fact, those with this high of a rating see much higher SSDI approval ratings.

Another major difference between these programs is the process of proving disability. When applying for VA disability, applicants can visit one of 150 VA hospitals and over 800 VA clinics available nationwide to receive regulated, standardized testing. This helps simplify the application process, requires less organization of medical paperwork, and typically gets results faster.

Unfortunately, SSDI applicants are much more plentiful and vary greatly from case to case, making it difficult to standardize the process. This means SSDI applicants must reference the SSA’s Blue Book to determine what tests and evidence they need to provide on their application. In general, the more evidence you provide, the better chance you have of getting benefits.

Benefits of Applying as a US Veteran

Due to veterans’ immense contributions to the United States, SSDI offers a number of benefits to veterans that apply, such as:

  1. An expedited claims process. All military service members who became disabled while on active military duty on or after October 1, 2001 receive an expedited application This means that, while most non-military applicants may have to wait up a long period of months for a claim decision, veterans can see results in as little as 4-6 weeks.
  2. More lenient income limits. Because SSDI is only awarded to those who are “totally and permanently disabled”, recipients are considered unable to do substantial work. This means that those who earn more than a certain amount from working (up to $1,170/month) can be removed from the program. However, there is no limit on unearned income for SSDI. This means that, unlike non-veteran applicants, all non-work military pay cannot disqualify you from receiving SSDI.
  3. Simultaneous Medicare and TRICARE benefits. TRICARE insurance is provided to all VA disability recipients automatically. In the same vein, Medicare benefits are automatically awarded to all SSDI recipients. Because Medicare provides more coverage than TRICARE, it takes the place of TRICARE as your primary insurance once SSDI is approved. TRICARE then becomes your secondary insurance, covering the remainder of costs that Medicare may not completely take care of.

Beginning the Application

Before starting your application, visit the Social Security main website to look up your condition(s) in the Blue Book. Speak with your physician to learn what test results and other medical evidence you will need to provide on the application. Be sure to also gather any documents specific to your military status (DD-214 discharge forms, military physician notes, etc.) that you can also provide on your application.

After gathering all necessary documents, you can begin your application whenever you’re ready on the same SSA website. This website also contains FAQs pertaining to the SSDI application, as well as pages specifically devoted to helping veterans throughout the process. If you are confused or unable to complete the application on your own, you can receive help from a loved one, caregiver, or a local Social Security worker by calling your nearest office.

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