Veteran's Disability vs. Social Security Disability Benefits: Is There a Difference?

Published on: August 26, 2020

As of August 2019, there were nearly 5 million veterans - about 25 percent of the total amount of people who served our country - that had a service-connected disability recognized by the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs or the U.S. Department of Defense. 

Veterans can apply for Social Security disability benefits and receive help if they have a disability that prevents them from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. Veterans may also qualify for tax-free disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). These benefits can help veterans with disabilities, but they are separate programs with their own unique eligibility requirements. This article will explore the two options for veterans and how they can be eligible.  

What are Veterans Disability Benefits?

If a United States veteran has a disabling condition develop or worsen due to their active service, then they may become eligible for disability compensation from the VA. This compensation is tax-free and depends on the disability’s severity and the extent that it prevents them from participating in any substantial gainful activity. Compensation from the VA is also available for the families of a service member who died during their active duty or during training. 

The requirements for veterans disability compensation from the VA include:

  • Veterans must have been honorably discharged from military service.
  • Veterans must display a disability relating to illnesses, physical injuries, and mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

For veterans who are eligible for veterans disability compensation and apply, they can receive their benefits in two ways: 

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) are veterans benefits paid to the surviving family, including spouses, children, and parents, of a service member who died on activity duty or during training. For spouses to apply for DIC, they must have been married and living together for at least a year with the deceased veteran, or have a child together. 

On the other hand, Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) is extra aid on top of the VA benefits. In cases of extreme disability, such as losing a leg, veterans can receive this extra aid to balance out the costs from the extra therapy and medical care.

SSA Disability Benefits vs. VA Benefits

Disability benefits from the SSA and veterans disability compensation from the VA vary significantly. Social Security benefits are not unique to veterans and are primarily determined by the amount of the applicant’s taxable earnings and their inability to work. On the other hand, veterans disability benefits from the VA can only be received through disability as a result of active service. So, unlike SSA benefits, you do not need to qualify for VA benefits with a permanent or long-lasting disability; veterans can be eligible for VA compensation for both partial and total disability. 

Additionally, Social Security benefits are not based on your military situation since eligibility is determined by your inability to work, so you can collect SSA benefits even if you have been dishonorably discharged from the military. With the VA, however, whether or not you had an honorable discharge will help determine your eligibility for benefits.

What is the Veterans Disability Application Process?

If you plan on applying for veterans’ disability compensation, then it’s likely that you can complete everything online. Veterans will need to provide information about their discharge or separation papers (Form DD214), any medical records documenting their disability, and eligibility of dependents of spouses, children, and parents. 

To apply for veterans’ compensation, you have to fill out the application form specific to compensation, 21-526EZ. You can apply several ways: by traditionally printing and mailing in the forms to the VA, applying by phone(1-800-827-1000) to the VA mail the application form, or by creating an account and applying online

When applying, it’s incredibly important to provide as much documentation possible regarding your disability or injury, the extent of it affecting your daily life, and what medical treatment your disability is receiving. 

Can You Receive Both Veterans Disability and Social Security Benefits?

Veterans who qualify for veterans’ disability can also apply for Social Security disability benefits. However, you must also meet the SSA requirements for both SSDI or SSI disability benefits, including having a disability that impairs you from holding a job. This condition must be expected to incapacitate you for at least a year and you must provide records of holding a full-time job for at least five of the last ten years. 

So, regardless of their status with the VA, veterans can apply and receive SSA benefits if they meet the requirements. It’s important that veterans pay attention to the differences between the two programs so they can receive the most help possible that they’re entitled to. The advocates of Disability Experts of Florida are here for America’s veterans who need help. If you want to know more about SSDI or SSI benefits for veterans, don’t hesitate to contact us today.


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