Qualifying for SSDI if You Already Receive VA Disability
The following post was contributed by the Outreach Team at Disability Benefits Help:
There are several different disability programs available. The Veterans Administration (VA) oversees VA disability benefits, which provides benefits based on service-connected disabilities and is not income-based. The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, which offers disability benefits to those who are unable to work regardless of the nature of the condition. However, to receive SSDI you have had to work enough to earn sufficient credits.
You can receive VA disability and SSDI at the same time, which will boost your income significantly. Often, disabled veterans have their VA disability and SSDI claims filed and being processed at the same time. However, if you already receive VA disability and are applying for SSDI, your VA disability approval might be able to help your claim. Disability Determination Services at SSDI will see that you have already been approved for disability benefits through one government agency and will give that consideration.
If you are a veteran who qualifies for disability benefits from the VA because of a service-connected disability it is better to also apply for SSDI benefits because usually they provide a more significant level of compensation than other assistance programs, such as SSI or a VA pension, which are needs-based on your resources and financial need. If you get approved for both VA disability and SSDI, your monthly income will exceed the limits for those needs-based programs.
How to Qualify for SSDI After Being Approved for VA Disability
There are significant differences between VA disability and SSDI benefits. To be approved for VA disability, you have to have a service-related disability. To be approved for VA disability, you don’t have to have a total disability rating. You can receive VA disability benefits even with a compensable rating that is as low as 10% and a disability rating as low as 0%. On the other hand, to be eligible for SSDI, you have to be considered completely disabled.
It is important to know that the VA disability rating is not always permanent. If your conditions or impairments worsen, you can increase an increase in your disability rating. The VA uses your ability to participate in substantially gainful employment (SGE) as the threshold to determine if you are eligible for disability benefits. If your disability is severe enough that it keeps you from working enough to earn the amounts that are set forth by the SGE guidelines, you are much more likely to meet the requirements to be approved for monthly benefits.
To meet the SSA’s definition of disabled and to be approved for SSDI benefits, you cannot be able to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA) due to an impairment that has already last or that is expected to last for a minimum of one year or lead to your death. The SSA’s SGA concept is very similar to the VA’s SGE rule. Both the SGE and SGE rules serve the same function to prove that the disabled individual cannot work enough to earn a substantial gainful income. The SGA figure set by the SSA was $1,130 per month for those who are disabled and $1,820 per month for those who are legally blind.
A significant difference between SSA disability and VA disability is the nature of the disability. The VA only awards benefits for disability for illnesses or injuries that are a result of military service. While the VA might only consider you to be 10% disabled per their guidelines, you might have other medical conditions that are not related to your military service that render you completely disabled per the SSA guidelines. The SSA considers all of your medical conditions when you apply for disability benefits.
The claims process for VA disability and SSDI can be very time consuming and stressful. While your initial benefits claim can be denied, you can appeal that decision and present additional evidence to support your claim. In the end, after your claim has been appealed twice, you can go before an administrative law judge for a ruling on your disability claim. You can choose to work with an advocate or an attorney for better odds at a faster approval of disability benefits.