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Veterans disability benefits

VA Disability and Social Security Disability: What You Need to Know

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
Published July 3, 2024
2 min read
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In 2023, approximately 7.9 million veterans received Social Security benefits for disability or retirement. Veterans make up over 14% of all adult Social Security recipients. If you’re a veteran, learn about Social Security Disability Insurance, including how much veterans can receive and the best way to apply for benefits.


SSDI vs. VA benefits: What’s the difference?

There are several key differences between Social Security disability benefits and veterans' disability compensation benefits, including the eligibility requirements and application processes. 

Eligibility

Eligibility for Social Security disability benefits is based on your work history and taxes paid into Social Security. Veterans must have served active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training and have an other than dishonorable discharge to be eligible for disability compensation.

Definition of disability

For Social Security disability benefits, the Social Security Administration defines disability as a physical or mental health condition resulting in functional impairments that limit your ability to work at a Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level. Your condition must last at least 12 months or be expected to end in death.

The definition of disability for the Veterans Benefits Administration is a little different. You must prove you have a service-connected disability, meaning your illnesses or injuries began or worsened during military service. For example, this could be an injury sustained during active duty or post-traumatic stress disorder that developed after service. The disability does not need to last long-term or prevent you from working at the SGA level.

Application

If you qualify for Social Security disability and veterans’ disability benefits, you must apply with two separate applications through both the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. You can go ahead and apply for SSDI even if you’re still in the military, in the hospital, or undergoing a rehabilitation program.


Can veterans receive both Social Security benefits and VA benefits?

Yes, veterans can receive SSDI and disability compensation benefits at the same time. These benefits do not affect each other, and you can receive both benefits simultaneously. It's important to note that receiving benefits from either program does not guarantee eligibility for the other.

Veterans receiving Social Security disability benefits also have access to Medicare health insurance, which supplements VA health services and pays for services not covered by the VBA.


How much is Social Security for disabled veterans?

SSDI rates are the same for veterans as they are for other recipients. Payment amounts depend on your average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). In 2024, the maximum amount of monthly benefits you can receive for SSDI is $3,822.

The amount you can receive in disability compensation is based on your disability rating and number of dependents. Some veterans can receive additional special compensation payments due to certain conditions or service circumstances.

What is a disability rating?

A disability rating measures the severity of your condition. The Veterans Benefits Administration uses a graded scale to measure the severity of a disability and determine a disability rating from 10 to 100%, which determines your compensation rate.


Get help with your application

If you’re a veteran applying for SSDI, a lawyer can help strengthen your case and maximize your potential benefits. Take our quiz to see if you qualify. If you'd like, Atticus can introduce you to a lawyer who can help with your VA claim.

Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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