Qualifying veterans can receive Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI) even if they already are receiving VA disability benefits. Medicare and TRICARE benefits may also be payable concurrently depending on qualifying circumstances.
Over nine million veterans received disability benefits in 2020, according to the Social Security Administration. In 2018, nearly a quarter of all United States military veterans said they suffered from a service-connected disability, according to the Census Bureau.
Vets may not realize they may qualify to receive both Social Security and VA disability payments at the same time.
What Social Security options are available for those who have served?
Social Security Administration Rules for Veteran Disability Compensation
- The applicant must be unable to perform “substantial work because of your medical condition(s).”
- The medical condition(s) must “have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year or to result in death” according to the Social Security Administration official site.
There are also rules for applying for benefits for a “closed period of disability,” which basically means that the applicant had a disability that qualifies for benefits, but the condition has improved. Those rules include:
- A requirement that the medical evidence shows that the applicant was not able to perform substantial work for “a continuous period of 12 months.”
- Applications for closed-period benefits must be submitted within 14 months after the end of the disability.
- A five-month waiting period may be applicable in these cases before the first monthly benefit payment can be made. Applicants who are approved for this type of disability payment may be permitted to be paid up to 12 months of retroactive SSI benefits from the application date.
What Kind of Social Security Disability Payment is a Veteran Eligible to Receive?
There are two types of SSA disability benefits a veteran may be eligible to apply for. One is SSDI, a disability insurance program where the “insurance payments” in these cases are the monthly Social Security tax deductions from the veteran’s paycheck, assuming the veteran has worked long enough to qualify for “coverage.”
The other is something known as Supplemental Security Income or SSI, which is a need-based program. Veterans may be required to submit proof of financial need for SSI.
Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Medicare
Those who are approved for SSDI benefits are automatically covered by Medicare after having received SSA payments for a total of 24 months.
How Much SSDI Will I Get?
The amount you receive each month will be based on your average lifetime earnings before your disability began and is not based on the severity of your disability. Other disability payments can reduce the amount of SSDI that you receive, however, SSI and VA benefits will not reduce your SSDI benefit.
Medicare and TRICARE
Those who begin receiving Medicare (see above) should know that TRICARE may offer supplemental coverage (described on the SSA official site as “wraparound coverage”) where Medicare acts as the primary payer, with TRICARE offering supplemental coverage that may apply to the Medicare deductibles and eligible copays or cost sharing.
Contact a TRICARE or a Department of Defense representative to see how certain Medicare coverages may affect TRICARE. in certain cases, it may be necessary to enroll in a specific Medicare program in order to remain eligible for continued TRICARE coverage.
For example, according to the SSA, “If you are entitled to Medicare Part A based on disability or permanent kidney failure, contact the Department of Defense to find out how this may affect your TRICARE benefits. You may need to be enrolled in Medicare Part B to keep your TRICARE coverage.”
Furthermore, those eligible to get retroactive Social Security disability benefits “also may become entitled to Medicare Part A for months before they receive the disability award notice.
“TRICARE beneficiaries who are awarded retroactive benefits based on disability or permanent kidney failure do not have to enroll in Part B for those months in the past and can keep their TRICARE coverage as long as they enroll in Part B currently.”
These issues may be subject to change becauses of legislation, TRICARE or Medicare enrollment requirements, or other factors. It’s best to discuss your specific needs with a TRICARE and/or Medicare representative where applicable before committing to one type of coverage or another.
When Can a Military Member Apply for Social Security Benefits?
Applicants do not have to be retired or separated in order to apply for benefits. A currently serving military member is permitted to apply at any time regardless of hospitalization status. The military member or veteran can apply while in a rehabilitation program, attending outpatient programs, and regardless of whether the treatment is in a military hospital or civilian facility.
Can Veterans Receive Social Security Disability Benefits While Receiving Military Pay?
This is a tricky question to answer, because being approved for Social Security disability benefits depends on not being able to perform substantial work. If a veteran is receiving disability pay from the Department of Veterans Affairs, that is compensation for an injury rather than compensation for labor.
But the issue is more complex than that, because drawing active duty pay may not disqualify a military member from receiving Social Security benefits, if (determined on a case-by-case basis) the military member is receiving medical treatment, put on restricted duty or not performing duties at all because of the disability, etc.
The bottom line is that any military member who has a disability should apply for Social Security benefits and let the Social Security Administration make the final decision on benefits. Never assume you won’t qualify.
What if the Applicant Stays on or Returns to Active Duty?
SSA rules state that it is possible to remain on active duty and still receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. This is dependent on whether or not the military member is actually able to perform work.
A permanent change of station move, changes in the recipient’s military career field specialty, or other factors may require a benefits review. SSA states that in such cases the military member must contact SSA with an update.
Important Information for Veterans Who have a 100% “Permanent and Total” VA Disability Rating
Those who have a 100% permanent and total (“P&T”) VA disability rating may be eligible to get expedited claims processing for Social Security benefits. The expedited process is generally open to those who became disabled while serving on active duty on or after Oct. 1, 2001. The date of the disability itself does not matter in these cases.
The SSA may already be notified of the veteran’s status, but in certain cases (especially if the 100% VA disability rating is very new) the veteran may have to furnish proof of the VA rating via a VA disability award letter or other documentation as required by SSA.
There is no fixed timeline for approval of an SSA application in such cases. The SSA official site says processing times may be affected by a variety of factors:
- The nature of the VA-rated disability.
- The responsiveness of doctors or other caregivers in supplying medical evidence to support the claim.
- Whether a medical examination is required as supporting evidence for the claim.
Are Social Security Disability Benefits Available for Partial Disability or Short-Term Disability?
No. Other programs may provide benefits for partial disability or short-term disability, but the Social Security Administration does not pay benefits for such conditions.
How Does SSA Determine Whether a Military Member is Disabled or Not?
There is a step-by-step process the Social Security Administration uses to determine the veteran or currently serving military member’s eligibility for benefits, which includes the following five questions:
- Is the veteran or military member currently working?
- Is the member’s condition severe?
- Is the condition found in the SSA list of qualifying “disabling” medical issues?
- Can the military member/veteran perform the same labor as before the condition?
- Can the applicant do any other type of work?
Are Family Members Eligible to Receive a Veteran’s Social Security Benefits?
The SSA official site states, “Certain members of your family may qualify for benefits based on your work.” These family members may include, (but are not limited to):
- A spouse aged 62 or older.
- A spouse of any age caring for the child of the applicant. The child must be younger than 16 years old or disabled.
- An unmarried child, adopted child, or, in some cases, a stepchild or grandchild younger than age 18 (or younger than age 19 if in elementary or secondary school full time).
- An unmarried child 18 or older with a disability received before age 22.
What if My Social Security Disability Application is Denied?
There is an appeals process for those denied for SSA benefits. The SSA official site says there are two basic categories for denial of SSA benefits: medical reasons and nonmedical reasons.
Those who need to appeal based on medical reasons must submit an Appeal Request and Appeal Disability Report. This report requires the applicant to furnish updated medical information including any tests, treatments, doctor visits, etc. since the SSA decision was made.
Those who need to appeal an SSA decision based on nonmedical reasons must contact their nearest Social Security Office and request a review of the case and get an appeal. This can also be done by calling 1-800-772-1213 to request the appeal.
A TTY number for hearing impaired applicants is also available: 1-800-325-0778.
How Do I Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits?
Veterans and currently serving military members can apply for SSA benefits online, at the nearest Social Security office, by phone or by U.S. mail. Call 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment. There is also a TTY number, 1-800-325-0778.
Are SSDI Benefits Taxable?
Social Security disability benefits can be subject to tax at both the federal and state level. Many recipients do not pay taxes at the federal level because their federally Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is too low to be taxed. However, a spouse’s income or household income can cause SSDI to be taxed. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are not taxed.
37 states and D.C. do not tax social security benefits, but nine states do.
Difference Between SSDI & SSI
SSDI pays benefits to disabled individuals who are unable to work, regardless of their income and resources.
SSI pays disabled individuals who are unable to work and have limited income and resources.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
|COLA||Money & Finance|
|VA Disability Rates||States That Don’t Tax Social Security Benefits|
|Social Security||States That Don’t Tax Military Retirement Pay|