Social Security Disability AND VA Disability Benefits?

Many of my clients are veterans.  They may be receiving VA disability benefits but that doesn’t mean they are ineligible for Social Security disability.  Still, it seems that misunderstandings persist.  Here are my most frequently asked (and answered) questions on the topic.

Question:  Can a Veteran Receive Both Social Security Disability and Veterans Disability Benefits without one offsetting the other?

Answer:  The two disability benefit programs are completely separate. You can receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration as well as receive disability benefits from the Veteran’s Administration.  There is NO offset!

Please note:  The answer is not the same for VA retirement benefits.

Question:  If I’m deemed disabled by the VA, will that automatically qualify me for Social Security disability benefits?

Answer:  The programs are separate, authorized by different laws, with different eligibility rules.  So even though you are deemed disabled by the VA, it doesn’t automatically qualify you for social security disability benefits.  But the fact that you have been deemed disabled by the Veteran’s Administration will help in your social security hearing as it demonstrates the extent of your disabilities.  It often also means that there are adequate medical chart notes documenting the extent of your disability, which is crucial in social security disability cases.  We represent clients in both Veteran’s Administration disability benefits cases and social security benefits cases and can help you make the most of whichever program has found you disabled.

Question:  Do I have to get Veterans Disability first in order to get Social Security Disability?

Answer:  Because the laws that authorize disability benefits for each program are completely separate, there is no order in which you must apply.  Both programs have lengthy applications and many rules to be aware of – and both take a long time.  It’s a good idea to get started as soon as possible.  We’re happy to help.

Question:  Is there any way to speed up a claim for a veteran for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Answer: Although the two programs – VA disability benefits and Social security disability benefits – are entirely separate, there is a special provision under the Social Security disability law for certain veterans.  If you became disabled while on active military service on or after October 1, 2001, you may qualify under the Wounded Warriors program to receive expedited processing of your disability claim.

Question:  How do the two programs – social security disability and VA disability – each assess a person’s claim?

Answer:  The difference between the two systems is that in Social Security disability there are no percentages of disability. While the system that exists for veterans allows the VA to conclude that a vet is 40% disabled and then receive benefits based on that determination (and potentially have that percentage upgraded over time to a full 100% rating), in the social security system it is all or nothing.