What Kinds of Benefits Are Available To Disabled Veterans?
Both the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) offer a variety of benefits to physically and mentally disabled veterans. Each institution defines, regulates, and administers them separately.
There are two programs available to veterans through the VA: (1) service-connected disability compensation and (2) non-service connected pension.
To qualify for service-connected disability compensation, a veteran must meet the following eligibility requirements:
-The individual cannot have been dishonorably discharged.
-The individual must have become disabled in the line of duty.
-The individual’s disability cannot have resulted from his or her own doing (i.e. drug or alcohol abuse).
Disabled veterans who qualify for VA benefits have their disabilities rated according to affected body systems and mental disabilities. Payments are determined according to the rating schedule, which disburses awards in increments of 10%, all the way up to 100%. A veteran need not be unemployed to qualify for disability benefits.
To qualify for pension benefits, a veteran must meet the following eligibility requirements:
-The individual needs to have been active duty during wartime.
-The individual must be low income.
-The individual must be totally and permanently disabled, although the disability need not be related to his or her military service.
Pension benefits are not available to employed veterans. However, employed veterans can collect service-connected benefits.
There are two programs available to disabled people through the SSA: (1) Social Security Disability (also known as Title II cases), and (2) Supplemental Security Income (also known as SSI or Title XVI cases).
Social Security Disability benefits are available to people who have worked and contributed to the Social Security system.
SSI benefits are available to people who haven’t ever worked, or who have worked but have not paid a sufficient amount into the Social Security system. Those applying for SSI benefits are subject to an assets and resources test in order to determine eligibility.
A successful application for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits qualifies one for medical benefits. Two years after first receiving Title II benefits, an individual becomes eligible for Medicare. An SSI benefit recipient can receive Medicaid benefits the same month his or her disability benefits begin.
Title II and Title XVI Benefits
To apply for Title II benefits, you must:
-Be a disabled worker less than 65 years old and have paid enough into the Social Security system.
-Have been continuously disabled since before the age off 22 and have parent who is covered by Social Security retire at or after age 62, become disabled, or die.
-Be a disabled widow or widower between 50-60 years old, whose late spouse was covered under Social Security.
To apply for Title XVI benefits, you must:
-Be at least 18 years old and meet the minimum income and resources qualifications.
-Be statutorily blind.
-Be under 18 years old and have parents who meet the minimum income and resources qualifications.
Is It Possible to Receive Both VA and SSA Benefits Concurrently?
Yes. To be eligible for both VA and SSA benefits, you must be a veteran who has paid into the Social Security system. A disabled veteran may be eligible for benefits from both the SSA and the VA. However, it is important to note that the two are totally separate entities that determine and administer benefits separately, so there’s no automatic overlap between the two. In other words, an individual can be identified as disabled by the SSA, but not by the VA, and vice versa. That said, the VA is required to obtain and review the same records that the SSA uses to make disability determinations.
Here are a few examples of eligibility and non-eligibility scenarios:
-A veteran diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of his or her military service who cannot work can apply for and potentially win both VA and SSA benefits.
-An employed veteran receiving VA disability benefits does not qualify for Social Security Disability because of his or her ability to work (inability to work is the primary requirement for Social Security Disability).
-A low-income veteran without a work record who qualifies for VA pension benefits should be aware that the SSA will decrease or terminate SSI benefits when an individual begins receiving pension payments. Losing one’s SSI benefits can have negative consequences for his or her Medicaid eligibility.
If an individual is applying for Social Security Disability benefits, and already receives VA benefits, he or she should be sure to include evidence of those VA benefits, as well as relevant testimony, during the Social Security Disability hearing. The SSA’s Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is required by law to consider such evidence when rendering a disability decision.
There are many benefits available to disabled veterans through both the VA and the SSA. In order to ensure they receive any benefits they may be eligible for, disabled veterans are best served by seeking representation by an experienced Social Security Disability attorney who is well-versed in both SSA and VA benefit policies.