What Veterans Should Know About Social Security Disability Benefits

What Veterans Should Know About Social Security Disability Benefits


You are a disabled American. You are also an American hero who served your country in the armed forces. You may be a war veteran; you may be disabled as a result of protecting your country. Perhaps you were hurt during combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. Maybe the carnage of war caused you to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Maybe you have rejoined civilian life, yet find it difficult to re-adjust.


As a disabled veteran, you may apply for benefits from the Veterans Administration or VA. After a short time, you start receiving VA benefits. You then apply to the Social Security Administration, or SSA, for disability benefits. You can apply for the Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, program and possibly the Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, program. After a wait of three to four months, you receive a reply from the SSA that rejects your application. The rejection might cause confusion: You were eligible for VA benefits, why are you not eligible for SSDI or SSI benefits? Moreover, does receiving VA benefits hurt your eligibility for SSDI and SSI benefits?



Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income Benefits

The SSA, created by Congress in the 1930s as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Great Society and later expanded under President Richard M. Nixon, is charged with providing financial security to retirees and those who are disabled.


SSDI is a program that provides income to those who are no longer able to work due to a disability. The program is funded through a payroll tax. Part of the FICA tax payment is earmarked for SSDI. If you worked 10 of the past 20 years and have not worked in at least 12 months due to disability, then you are eligible for SSDI. You must not be able to perform “substantial gainful activity,” or SGA, which is the determination of whether you are classified as disabled under the SSA. SGA is that you cannot perform work for pay that is deemed substantial by the SSA. Currently, if it is deemed that you can earn $1,180 per month or, $1,950 for a legally blind person then it is considered that you can perform SGA. To determine this, the SGA will look into your work history and your skillset. If it is considered that you have transferable skills that could be used to reach SGA, then you will not qualify. Similarly, if you perform volunteer work that, if paid, can earn SGA, then you would not be considered SGA under SSA guidelines. Also, if you are under age 31, then you can still qualify even though you lack the work history requirement under similar guidelines.


SSI, in contrast, is not based on a prior work history; instead, it is based on income. If your income is below the mandated amount and you have a disability, then you are eligible for SSI benefits. Like SSDI, SSI benefits are determined based on what the SSA classifies as a disability, which is the ability to perform SGA. Unlike SSDI, the U.S. Treasury supports the program, not payroll tax. As such, SSI is not “paid into” and does not require that you have a prior work history whereas SSDI is only applicable for those who have a prior work history or paid into the program.


Note that qualifying under the SSA is either disabled or not disabled, based on SSA criteria. There is no partial disability under the SSA.



Military Benefits

VA paid benefits for disabled military veterans is administered by the VA. As a result, qualifying as disabled under the VA had different criteria than the SSA. You may qualify under the VA but not qualify for SSDI or SSI. In contrast to the SSA programs that categorize someone as either disabled or not disabled, the VA categorizes someone as not disabled, partially disabled, and disabled. The qualifications for disability under VA rules are looser than SSA qualifications and have a lower qualification threshold.


If you are receiving VA disability benefits, then that will help your case in determining disability under the SSA. However, as mentioned, the qualifications are different, so qualifying for VA benefits, through influential in determining disability under SSA guidelines, does not guarantee that you qualify as unable to perform SGA.


Receiving VA benefits does not affect your eligibility for SSDI. As discussed, SSDI benefits are for those who have a working history and now have a disability. It is not income-based, so receiving VA benefits will not affect your eligibility.


In contrast, receiving VA benefits can affect your eligibility for SSI. SSI, as discussed, applies to those who are low income and cannot perform SGA. If you are receiving VA benefits, then those benefits will factor into your income and thus may affect SSI eligibility.




Contact an Experienced Philadelphia Disability Attorney Today

If you are a veteran, we thank you for your service. We can go about our daily lives because you enlisted to protect our freedoms. If you are a disabled veteran, you may be entitled to VA benefits and SSA benefits. In addition to VA payments, you may qualify for SSI and SSDI. However, note that the application process and guidelines for SSA benefits are complex. Therefore, you need an experienced and knowledgeable advocate on your side who can help you obtain the benefits you deserve. Contact the Philadelphia disability law firm of Krasno, Krasno & Onwudinjo at 800-952-9640 today for a free consultation.

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