How to Qualify for SSDI While Receiving VA Benefits
Veterans’ (VA) benefits provide invaluable support to those who became disabled while protecting the freedoms of our country. To be sure, a report published by the Congressional Budget Office asserts that 3.5 million of the nation’s veterans are receiving these benefits.
For many veterans, this compensation is enough to ensure they are able to pay for their medical bills, and provide for their own well-being. Others, however, need additional assistance beyond VA benefits in order to survive. In these cases, many turn to support from the Social Security Administration in the form of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a federal program that awards monthly benefits to qualifying individuals with certain disabilities.
Of course, many veterans worry that receiving VA benefits will disqualify them from acquiring compensation through the SSDI; in reality, however, this is not the case, as the eligibility requirements for both are entirely different.
In light of this, if you are a veteran and would like to receive SSDI and VA benefits simultaneously, it is important to understand the specifics of both. Furthermore, it is in your best interests to contact an attorney to improve your chances of a successful claim.
Differences Between VA Benefits and SSDI
To begin, unlike SSDI, VA benefits are not awarded based on the applicant’s income, but instead on a percentage that represents the veteran’s level of disability. Indeed, a table offered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs shows that a 10 percent disability yielded $136.24 per month in December of 2017, while a 70 percent disability corresponded with a monthly payment of $1,365.48 for veterans without a family. These rates only include figures for veterans who have a spouse and children.
In contrast, SSDI benefits are awarded to individuals who are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) due to a disability that is expected to last for 12 months or end in death. Here, the SSA is concerned with the amount of income that an applicant earns on a monthly basis, and uses this information to determine their eligibility to receive benefits. Specifically, the SSA currently defines SGA as earnings of $1,970 per month in 2018 for blind recipients, and $1,180 for others.
Naturally, this leaves many disabled veterans wondering if their VA benefits compensation will put them above the income limits and deem them ineligible for SSDI. After all, the benefits awarded for a 70-percent disability rating well exceed the income threshold for SSDI.
Fortunately, when examining an applicant’s eligibility for SSDI, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not count VA benefits as unearned income. Instead, it will only look at all other sources of taxable income before coming to a determination. Furthermore, as of March 17th, 2014, the SSA actually expedites SSDI applications for veterans with a VA compensation rating of 100 percent permanent and total, helping to ensure they are able to access the benefits they need each month.
Requirements of SSDI are somewhat different from that of VA benefits. Some of the notable differences are as follows:
- While VA benefits are determined on a percentage basis, SSDI is only awarded if you qualify as permanently and totally disabled. (This is equivalent to a VA rating of 70 percent or above.)
- Only disabled veterans are eligible to receive VA benefits, but the SSDI program of the federal government is open to all Americans with disabilities who need financial assistance. This makes the SSDI program slightly tougher when it comes to determining who may or may not qualify.
- Medical professionals designated for the VA disability program will determine the disability. However, this is not feasible in case of SSDI, considering it covers the national population. Therefore, SSDI requires applicants to furnish specific certified evidence of their disability when seeking this benefit.
Disability Determination Services (DDS) in Alabama
According to the rules on Social Security, Alabama’s DDS agency is the authority that will decide on your disability. Once you have completed the initial application, any further questions on your case will be addressed by DDS offices in Birmingham and Mobile.
Alabama’s Disability Appeals Process
In October 2019, Alabama added a new step called “reconsideration” to the appeals process. Now the appeals process in the state includes 4 steps as follows:
Step #1: Request for Reconsideration
Following the denial of your initial application by DDS, you can file a request that your claim must be reviewed by a different claim examiner at the DDS office.
Step #2: ALJ Hearing
At this hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will look at any new evidence and review the original decision of Alabama DDS.
Step #3: Appeals Council
Your case will only be heard by the Appeals Council if it determines that it was decided on the basis of incorrect law or procedures.
Step #4: Federal Court
If the Appeals Council chooses not to hear your claim or denies it, you have right to bring your case to Alabama’s federal court.
Are You a Veteran Applying for SSDI Benefits? Contact us Today for Help
In a perfect world, disabled veterans would have no difficulty receiving the compensation they need and deserve in the form of both VA and SSDI benefits. However, this is far from the reality; in far too many cases, applications for SSDI benefits will be denied due to a lack of accurate or complete information, or because of an error made by the SSA.
If you are a disabled veteran seeking SSDI benefits, don’t attempt to face the SSA without a skilled legal professional on your side. At Walton Law, LLC, our talented legal team in Alabama has been assisting local residents obtain disability benefits for over 15 years, and we are prepared to put that experience to work for you today. We will work aggressively on your behalf to ensure you are able to receive the benefits that you rightfully deserve for serving the United States of America. Don’t hesitate to reach us at our office in Mobile by calling 251-455-5819. Or, feel free to stop by our offices in Robertsdale or Fairhope, as well.