Military veterans have offered their lives to serve our country, a sacrifice we deeply appreciate. For some, this service has resulted in a disability that affects their capacity to work and, as a result, their income. While the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may often provide cash compensation for this disability, many may wonder if there are other ways they can get compensation for their disability, such as Social Security. The short answer is yes, Social Security for disabled veterans may be an option. However, eligibility for Social Security benefits is determined according to a separate set of criteria, and getting approved for them requires a separate application process that is not necessarily simple. There are many factors to consider and some big differences between being disabled according to the VA and disabled according to Social Security. If you are a disabled veteran who is thinking about applying for Social Security disability, the knowledgeable attorneys with Bruce L. Weider, PC at (734) 485-0535 may be able to look at your case and review your legal options with you.
Do 100% Disabled Veterans Get Social Security?
The higher a VA disability rating is, the greater the likelihood the veteran will be approved to receive Social Security disability benefits. However, a VA disability rating does not guarantee approval for Social Security. Additionally, veterans must apply separately for VA disability and Social Security disability benefits because the two programs are not connected.
VA Disability Requirements
VA disability is organized around the principle that the adverse effects on veterans of impairments acquired through their military service should be mitigated to the extent possible. VA disability is based solely on two questions:
- Is the disability service related? A service-related disability is a disability or injury that is caused by, presumptively related to, or aggravated by the veteran’s military service.
- If it is, what is the level of the disability? VA disability ratings are on a scale of 0-100%, and compensation is calculated proportionate to the degree of disability; a veteran does not need to be 100% disabled to receive VA disability benefits.
Social Security Disability Requirements
While the VA only asks two questions to determine disability, the application for Social Security disability benefits requires the answers to several questions. These questions include:
- Is the medical condition severe enough to qualify? The condition must be expected to last at least one year or result in death, as well as prevent the individual from engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA).
- Is the individual totally disabled? Per Social Security Office of Retirement and Disability policy, the individual must be totally disabled to receive benefits.
- Does the individual meet the income requirements? Individuals cannot make more than $1470 per month if they are not blind, and not more than $2460 if they are statutorily blind, according to the Social Security Administration.
- Does the individual have enough work credits to be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)? By contrast to the Social Security Supplemental Income program, individuals must have a minimum of 40 credits to be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance or retirement benefits.
Can a 90 Percent Disabled Veteran Receive Social Security?
Given the extent of disability required to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, it makes sense that the higher a veteran’s VA disability rating is, the greater the chances that they will be approved for Social Security. However, Social Security for disabled veterans is not guaranteed. Veterans must meet the Social Security Administration’s criteria for disability. If you are not sure if you meet the criteria, or have applied and been denied, Bruce L. Weider, PC may be able to assist you.
One criterion of the Social Security Administration is that the condition must be so severe that the veteran would be unable to perform any substantial work. Because the VA evaluates and rates each service-related disability with a percentage value from 0-100% according to a regulated schedule, a veteran may be considered disabled by the VA while also being considered non-disabled by Social Security. This can be especially true if the veteran has more than one service-related condition, because the VA combines all of a veteran’s ratings into one combined rating and rounds to the nearest 10%.
How Much Extra Do Veterans Get for Social Security?
Receiving a military pension does not affect receiving Social Security benefits, whether those are disability or retirement benefits. Social Security benefits are based on earnings. The pay a veteran received while serving counts toward those earnings. However, service members who served between September 16, 1940, and December 31, 1956, did not pay Social Security taxes. This means their records are credited with special earnings. These special earnings are added when the veteran applies for Social Security benefits. The veteran may receive an additional $160 per month if:
- They were honorably discharged after 90 or more days in the military
- They were released from military service due to injury or disability at any time
- They are still on active duty
- They are applying for survivors’ benefits and the veteran died while on active duty
If the veteran served between 1957 and 2001, their extra Social Security wage credits are either added when they apply (if they served between 1957-67) or already on their record (1967 and beyond). There are no special extra earning credits after 2001.
What Is the 55-Year-Old Rule for VA Disability?
Veterans under age 55 are required to undergo compensation and pension (C&P) exams every 2-5 years to determine whether their disability rating should be increased, decreased, or remain the same. After they reach age 55, they are typically “protected” and no longer need exams to prove their condition is unchanged unless there is a suspicion of fraud. One exception to this “55-year-old rule” is that veterans with certain types of cancers may need an exam six months after completing treatment to obtain a rating for cancer residuals.
In some cases, veterans under age 55 may qualify for a protected rating and no longer need C&P exams. Some of the circumstances under which this may apply include:
- Permanent disabilities such as lost limbs or blindness
- Prescribed scheduled minimum rating for disabilities such as degenerative arthritis
- Having multiple disabilities where one reduced rating does not impact the overall combined rating
- When there is no recognized likelihood of the disability improving
10- and 20-Year Rules
Two other ways a veteran may qualify for a protected rating are the 10- and 20-year rules:
- 10-Year Rule: If the rating has been in place for at least 10 years, the VA cannot eliminate it unless there is proof the veteran committed fraud. The rating may still be reduced if the condition improves.
- 20-Year Rule: If the rating has been in place for at least 20 years, it cannot be reduced below that level or eliminated unless there is proof the veteran committed fraud.
Are You Ready To Apply for Social Security for Disabled Veterans?
The VA provides cash compensation for disabled veterans. Depending on the severity of your disability, you may also want to apply for Social Security for disabled veterans. You can receive benefits from both programs, and if approved for both programs, may be able to take care of your basic needs more easily. If you are ready to apply for Social Security, or have applied and been denied, contact the experienced attorneys with Bruce L. Weider, PC at (734) 485-0535 and schedule a free initial consultation to review your case and learn how we may be able to help.