If you are a disabled veteran, you might be eligible to receive Veterans Administration (VA) disability and Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) at the same time. VA disability benefits are available to military veterans who suffered a disability while on active duty. Social Security disability is available to disabled workers who have any kind of medical issue that prevents them from working. If you are approved for VA benefits and your condition is serious enough to keep you from working at all, you can apply for Social Security disability as well. You can receive both benefits monthly once you have been approved, and the two programs should not affect one another.

The Difference in Total Disability

When you apply for VA benefits, they will look at your medical records pertaining to your military service. Only your active duty injuries and diseases will be used to determine whether you are disabled. You will be given a disability rating, which ranges from 0 to 100 percent. Your amount of benefits will be based on the disability rating you are given.

To receive Social Security disability, you must be totally disabled, meaning you must meet the criteria to prove that you are totally disabled and will be unable to work for at least a year or you have a condition that will result in your death. This essentially means that veterans with a 10 percent disability rating will have a very tough time qualifying for Social Security disability unless they’ve developed a new illness after leaving the military, while veterans with a disability rating of 70 percent or higher will have an easier time getting approved.

What the SSA Looks For

While the VA only looks at your military disabilities when you apply for VA benefits, the SSA looks at all your medical issues when you apply for SSDI benefits. You can combine your military disability with other health issues, such as a heart condition, hypertension, asthma, or diabetes to be approved for benefits. Include all your medical records, so the SSA can see the overall picture.

Qualifying For Expedited Benefits

If you are a veteran who meets specific criteria, you can qualify for expedited SSDI benefits. If you have a VA compensation rating of 100 percent Permanent and Total, you should indicate it on your application for SSDI. You will qualify for expedited processing of your claim. Through the Wounded Warrior program, you could also qualify for expedited processing of your claim through the SSA. The expedited process is available to service members who became disabled on active military duty. Both the active duty service and the disability had to occur on or after October 1, 2001. You will have to request expedited processing through the Wounded Warrior program when you submit your application for disability benefits to the SSA. Simply mark your status as a veteran on the final page of the Social Security disability application form under “Notes” for your claim to be expedited.

Next Steps to Take

To qualify for disability benefits, you will need to meet the medical criteria set forth by the SSA and by the VA. You will need to provide hard medical evidence to the SSA to back up your claim and show that you are unable to work. Your condition must meet the medical criteria established in the Blue Book, which is the SSA medical guide. The VA will review your VA medical records to determine if you suffered a service-related disability that warrants benefits. The easiest way to apply for disability is online on the SSA’s website, but you can also call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment to apply in person as well at your local SSA office.

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