Can I qualify for Veterans disability benefits and Social Security disability benefits?

Social Security Disability Benefits PaperworkThe good news is that, yes, you may qualify for Social Security disability and Veterans disability benefits at the same time, and you may receive benefits from both programs.

However, each program has its own definition of disability and its own eligibility requirements. Therefore, qualifying for one program does not automatically qualify you for the other program, even if you are a Veteran.

Instead, you need to have your application approved by the Social Security Administration for Social Security disability benefits and the Department of Veterans Affairs for Veterans disability benefits.

Definition of Disability

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs considers someone disabled if the person:

  • Served on active duty, active duty training, or inactive duty training.
  • Has a disability rating because of an illness or injury that impacts the body or mind. The disability does not need to be a complete disability.
  • Got sick or injured, or had an illness or injury worsen while serving in the military.

However, a Veteran who receives an other than honorable, dishonorable, or bad conduct discharge from the military will not qualify for Veterans disability benefits even if the Veteran meets the disability definition described above.

The U.S. Social Security Administration has completely different criteria for determining if someone is disabled. The Social Security Administration doesn’t care where or when you were disabled or if you served in the military, and the Social Security Administration will not accept a partial disability. Instead, a person is disabled if:

  • You are totally disabled. If your condition prevents you from earning more than a minimum amount defined as substantial gainful activity, then you may be totally disabled. Partial disabilities are not considered by the Social Security Administration, even if they impact your income.
  • You are permanently disabled. Medical professionals must expect your condition to last for at least one year or to result in your death.
  • You have paid enough in Social Security disability taxes to qualify for benefits. You must have earned enough work credits to qualify for benefits. The number of work credits that you need depends on your age. However, most adult workers need to have earned 40 work credits with 20 of those credits earned in the ten years immediately before filing for disability.

The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration are both agencies of the United States government. However, they do not share a common application process. Instead, you need to convince each agency of your eligibility based on that agency’s specific eligibility criteria. That said, if you have a 100% disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs, then your Social Security disability application may be expedited, although your eligibility is not guaranteed.

If you think that you meet the disability definition for either program, then your next step is to complete an application for one or both programs.

You Don’t Have to Apply for Disability Benefits on Your Own

Whether you apply for Social Security disability benefits or Veterans disability benefits, you have the right to work with an experienced lawyer who may reduce the frustration and stress that comes with applying for either program.

While there are significant eligibility differences and different application procedures for Veterans disability and Social Security disability, both application processes can be frustrating and stressful. Both government agencies require precise information and may delay or deny applications based on unclear or missing information.

Accordingly, it is essential to work with an experienced disability lawyer to file your application, or your appeal if your initial application is denied. Our experienced Social Security disability lawyers are here to help Veterans and non-Veterans in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire get the Social Security disability benefits that they deserve. We can also direct you to a Veterans disability lawyer if you need one.

To learn more, please read our free book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process, and call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

 

John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer