Many people know that monthly payments are available for disabled individuals from both the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). But can a person receive both Social Security disability benefits and VA disability benefits?
Both require that you be found medically disabled but otherwise require very different things. For Social Security, what other requirements must be met depend on if you are attempting to obtain disability insurance, supplemental security income (SSI), child’s benefits, or another type of disability benefit. For VA disability benefits, you must additionally prove that your disabling condition is “service related” or connected to your military service. Additionally, you must show the severity of your disabling conditions so that the VA can give you a disability rating (percentage which they find you disabled). This is obviously a drastic oversimplification of the requirements of these benefits. However, the purpose of this blog is to discuss how these benefits interact with each other and not necessarily how to obtain these benefits.
While most people are aware these benefits exist, few people understand that Social Security disability and VA disability benefits are not mutually exclusive of each other. Meaning that unlike most benefits, you could receive both full monthly Social Security disability payments and full monthly VA disability payments without taking reduction on either benefit because of the other. This is uncommon. Individuals should be aware of this and not miss out on the possible additional monthly payments they may be entitled to if they in fact could qualify for both. However, as always, there are some exceptions to this rule.
VA Benefits Are Excluded From WEP
In 1983, then President Ronald Reagan proposed and pushed for major reforms to the Social Security system, including and particularly Social Security disability. Within those reforms were the Windfall Elimination Provisions (WEP). The purpose of the Windfall Elimination Provisions are to prevent individuals who qualify for multiple types of benefits (disability, retirement, pensions, etc.) from obtaining more money due disability or in retirement than they earned while working.
While you can argue over the actual benefits of this or if it is good policy, that is the law and has been since 1983. Over the years, the Windfall Elimination Provisions have grown to encompass many types of benefits (especially those paid by a federal, state, or municipal government) such as state retirement pensions, workers compensation payments, federal employees retirement system payments, etc. However, noticeably absent from this list is VA benefits. Thus, over the years disability arising from military service has been excluded from Windfall Elimination Provisions (WEP) exceptions and reductions, and continues to be to this day.
Type of SS Disability Benefit Matters
So, the good news is that the obtaining of both Social Security disability benefits and VA disability benefits is not automatically precluded by law. However, that does not mean there is no interaction between Social Security disability and VA disability benefits. It all comes down to what type of Social Security disability benefit you qualify for and are/would be receiving. Luckily, this is a relatively simple distinction. Basically, every Social Security disability benefit other than Supplemental Security Income (SSI) does not interact with VA disability benefits. So, if you are receiving or attempting to obtain disability insurance, widow’s, child, or another type of Social Security disability benefit, you are not precluded from obtaining both monthly payments, in full, assuming you could qualify for both. Those receiving or seeking Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are not so fortunate.
VA Disability Payments May Reduce SSI Payments
Unfortunately, regardless of the anti-windfall provisions, the Social Security Administration treats VA disability payments the same as any other income when considering Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. This is because of the position SSI payments take in priority order. Since SSI payments are “needs based” and not a program individuals pay into, Social Security considers themselves the “payer of last resort.” This means that they pay after all other income you receive (absent the first $25) is accounted for. Then they will determine first if you are eligible to receive any payments from SSI at all and, if so, how much those payments should be reduced given your other income.
So, it’s not that you can’t receive both VA disability payments and SSI payments. It’s that they will interfere with each other and cause a reduction in SSI payments up to precluding the payments of benefits. Under Supplemental Security Income, the most the Social Security Administration can pay someone monthly is $841.00 per month (increased for 2022 from $793.00). They then reduce SSI for other payments, income, or resources you receive.
For example, if you received a low percentage rating under the VA and were only receiving $300 per month you would still qualify and receive SSI payments. Those payments would simply be reduced to $541.00 per month. Therefore, if for instance you were found to be unemployable by the VA with a rating of 70% disabled or more and were receiving the $3,000.00+ monthly payment associated with it, you would have no money left to receive from SSI regardless of eligibility. Thus, in the vast majority of cases in which someone’s medical conditions are severe enough to obtain both VA and Social Security disability benefits, this preclusion occurs if SSI is the only Social Security benefit available. This happens because the ratings required to be considered totally disabled by Social Security are likely to place you into the range of receiving higher monthly VA disability payments.
Need Help with Your SS Disability or VA Benefit Claim?
I realize this is a lot to take in. First, there is the question of if you even qualify for SS disability and/or VA disability benefits. Then you must determine what Social Security benefit or benefits you qualify for (disability insurance, supplemental security income, etc.) and/or what VA rating you are attempting to receive. After all of this, how those benefits interact then becomes a concern. However, you do not have to attempt to obtain either Social Security disability or VA disability benefits on your own.
At Gold, Khourey & Turak, we offer representation in all areas of Social Security disability and VA disability claims. Our lawyers know the social security disability system and the VA disability system and can help you understand and decide what benefits you may qualify for. But our attorneys do more than just tell you what benefits you should apply for, we are side-by-side with you helping you obtain every penny you are entitled to. Best yet, we do not charge a fee until we win benefits for you. To be clear, that means if you are thinking about applying for benefits, you can talk to us at no charge and you owe us nothing until we win you your benefits.
If you or someone you know is attempting to obtain VA or Social Security disability benefits or are trying to figure out or calculate how and what deductions might be made from your monthly checks, our social security attorneys have years of experience in reviewing claims and working with both the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Don’t hesitate, contact our office 24 hours a day by phone or text at (304) 845-9750 or by Live Chat or our online form at GKT.com. We can help you obtain the benefits and monthly payments you deserve.