A Veteran’s guide to Social Security Disability
Types of Benefits
What types of benefits can I receive?
Social Security pays disability benefits through two programs: the Social Security disability insurance program, which pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are “insured,” meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes; and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which pays benefits based on financial need.
What is Social Security Disability Insurance?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a Social Security program that benefits you if you become disabled before you reach retirement age and aren’t able to work. SSDI pays monthly benefits to workers who are no longer able to work due to a significant illness or impairment that is expected to last at least a year or to result in death within a year.
Who qualifies for SSDI?
To qualify for the SSDI program, you must have worked a certain number of years in a job where you paid Social Security taxes (FICA). Specifically, you need to have earned a certain number of work credits; you can earn up to four work credits per year. If you are 31 or older, you must have worked at least 5 of the last 10 years to pass the recent work test. Put another way, you will need to have earned 20 credits (one quarter of work equals one credit) in the 10 years immediately before you became disabled. More information on Social Security work credits can be found here.
What is Supplemental Security Income?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program that is strictly need-based, according to income and assets. SSI has nothing to do with work history, but strictly with financial need. If you are both disabled (according to the SSA definition) and can demonstrate your financial need (insufficient or no income and less than $2,000 in assets), you may qualify for SSI.
Can You Qualify for Both SSDI and SSI Disability Benefits?
If your income and assets are low enough to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and you also worked long enough in a job that paid taxes into the Social Security system to qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), it’s possible to receive both types of benefits at once.
Social Security Disability and Veterans
Can you get both Social Security Benefits and Military Retirement?
Yes, and generally there is no reduction in your Social Security Benefits due to your Military Retirement. In other words you get full Social Security benefits based on your earnings. If you have health care benefits from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs your health care benefits may end or change when you become eligible for Medicare.
Can you get Social Security Disability Benefits and VA compensation benefits?
Yes, you can receive both SSDI benefits and VA compensation benefits at the same time.
How Is the Social Security Disability System Different From the VA System?
Primarily, the SSA system is different from the VA system in that there are no percentages of disability. While the veterans disability system allows the VA to conclude that a vet is 10% or 40% or 100% disabled and then receive benefits based on that determination, in the Social Security system, it is all or nothing.
Can I Work Part-Time and Be Eligible for Social Security Disability?
As long as your earnings don’t exceed a certain amount set by Social Security each year, you can generally work part time while you apply for Social Security disability benefits. If you earn more than the “substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit, Social Security assumes you can do a substantial amount of work and you won’t be eligible for disability benefits. In 2017, the SGA limit is $1,170 per month (or $1,950 for blind applicants).
How far back will Social Security pay me if I am approved?
Social Security will only pay you past-due benefits one year prior to the day you filed your application, even if they find you disabled much earlier than that. In SSI cases you will only get paid from the date of your application.
What information does a veteran or present member of the military need to apply for SSDI or SSI benefits?
In order to apply for SSDI or SSI benefits you will need:
- Your original or certified copy of your birth certificate of proof of US citizenship or legal residency of foreign-born.
- W-2 form or income tax return from last year.
- DD 214 if you are discharged from the military.
- Any military or workers compensation and include proof of payment.
- Medical records from all military and civilian sources.
- Initial: Initial application stage involves applying for SSI and/or SSDI benefits. You are free to do this on your own, but we can help you complete the application and accompanying forms. After applying, it may take the Social Security Administration 2 to 6 months to process your application.
- Reconsideration: If your initial application is denied, your case will be appealed and move onto Reconsideration. The Reconsideration stage involves the Administration collecting more records (if you alert them to the existence of new records) and reviewing your case. This review will generally take 1 to 5 months.
- Hearing: If your Reconsideration is denied. Claimants generally wait an average of 18-24 months for a hearing, after requesting one. The Administration will alert you of the time, date, and place of your hearing about six weeks to a month before the hearing. During this time we will gather evidence and prepare for your hearing.
- Decision: Some judges will make a decision at the hearing. Other judges will take 6 – 8 weeks to decide. Regardless, a written decision is sent to you which explains the reasons supporting the decision. If you win, you will begin the process of being “placed in pay.” It often takes 6 to 12 weeks to get monthly benefits started, and a few months longer to get your full back award
Downloadable PDF: A Veterans Guide to Social Security Disability