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Yes, it’s technically possible to get Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) and benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at the same time. You can get VA benefits first, and then apply for SSDI—or reverse the order, applying for SSDI after getting VA benefits.
You can get VA benefits even if your condition(s) don’t fully prevent you from working. SSDI, on the other hand, requires your disability to be severe enough that you can’t work a meaningful amount.
There’s no rule that says you can’t take SSDI and VA disability benefits at the same time. But there are rules that dictate whether or not you’ll qualify for both.
SSDI is a little more cut-and-dried. That’s because getting money from this insurance is all-or-nothing. The Social Security Administration (SSA) either deems you eligible and pays you a monthly sum, or they don’t and you get nothing.
VA benefits, on the other hand, can get scaled up or down depending on your degree of disability.
In order to be eligible for SSDI, the SSA needs to determine that your disability is severe enough to prevent you from working. To give yourself an idea of qualifying conditions, check out this guide.
VA benefits are different. As long as you sustained your injury or illness in the line of service, you can qualify. That’s true even if your disability affects your daily life but doesn’t necessarily prevent you from working full-time. With these benefits, the more your condition limits you, the more payment you’ll receive.
To help you compare and contrast these two benefit programs, the SSA has a handy PDF.
If you’re already claiming SSDI because of a disability from your military service, you can most likely qualify for VA benefits. In fact, you’ll probably get a good percentage of the full available benefit. Why? Because if you qualify for SSDI, you probably have a disability that seriously limits what you can do. And that makes you eligible for a bigger compensation rate.
But what if you want to flip the order and apply for SSDI when you’re already getting VA disability benefits?
Those VA benefits can help in your SSDI application process, but you’ll still need to prove to the SSA that your disability makes you unable to work. Fortunately, the medical evidence you gathered up to show the VA can help you fill out the SSDI application more easily.
Usually, no. But there are exceptions when your file might be automatically flagged for expedited SSDI claim processing. That can happen for:
In both cases — as a Wounded Warrior or someone with a 100% P&T compensation rating — the SSA usually automatically identifies you and extends the expedited application process. If either applies to you and you haven’t heard anything about getting SSDI benefits, though, you may need to contact the SSA and show them your VA notification letter.
Everyone else has to apply for SSDI the normal way. The good news is that the legwork you put in to apply for VA benefits can help with your SSDI application. You’ve probably already gathered a lot of the necessary information and medical evidence to complete the application form.
Another thing that can help? Being 50 or older. At that point, the SSA considers you less trainable and is more likely to extend benefits to you.
As you navigate the SSDI application process, you’ll come across something called SGA, or substantial gainful activity. This is essentially the SSA’s cap on how much money you can bring in from working during any given month and still qualify for benefits. In 2023, it’s $1,470 per month for most people.
Here’s the good news: VA benefits don’t count toward your SGA. You could theoretically get VA benefits, earn a little income (but stay under the SGA limit), and get SSDI.
So far, we’ve been talking about Social Security disability insurance, which is reserved for people living with a disability who have a work history. But there’s also Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which you can potentially get if you have a disability and your financial resources are below a certain amount.
And, yes, you can take SSI and VA disability benefits at the same time.
Yes. Because SSI is a needs-based program, the SSA looks at all of the money you have coming in during any given month. And unlike SSDI, that includes any VA benefits.
You can’t get SSI if your monthly income — including benefits from sources like the VA — exceeds $914 in 2023. ($914 is also the amount you’ll get each month if you’re eligible for SSI.)
So, if you’re getting more than $914 from the VA, you won’t be eligible for SSI.
If you’re getting less than that from the VA, you still might be able to get SSI. But the amount you get in VA benefits will be subtracted from your SSI check.
Let’s say you have a 10% disability rating from the VA, which means you get a monthly check of $165.92 from them. The SSA will count that as income and reduce your SSI benefit by that amount, leaving you with a monthly SSI check of $748.08 ($914 – $165.92).
Ultimately, if you’re already getting VA benefits, you can still apply for and potentially claim Social Security disability insurance. In fact, applying for SSDI might be a little easier because you’ve already navigated the VA’s benefits application process.
Even so, no one would argue that applying for SSDI is simple. For help along the way — from understanding the requirements to making your application more likely to get accepted — you can turn to a disability lawyer. To see if one would help you, take this quick quiz.
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