Social Security Disability Benefits for Disabled Veterans

You can work and still get Social Security disability benefits.

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If you’re a disabled veteran, you may qualify for benefits from both Social Security Administration disability programs: Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income. To qualify, you have to meet several requirements, including the SSA’s adult definition of disability.The SSA expedites the processing of your claim if your injury or illness occurred during active military duty after October 1, 2001. Your disability application is generally expedited automatically, but you can inform SSA when applying that you're a disabled vet as a reminder.

Eligibility Requirements

For disabled vets who served before 2001, the SSA reduces the amount needed to earn work credits to qualify for disability benefits. For example, as of 2012, a regular applicant needs to make $1,130 a year to earn a credit, but disabled vets who served in the military between 1957 and 1977 earn a work credit with $300 in active duty pay. If you served between 1978 and 2001, you get work credits equal to $100 in addition to each $300 you make in active duty pay, up to $1,200 per year. If you served between September 1940 and 1957, you earn work credits for every $160 you made during active duty.

Benefit Amounts

Your benefit amounts are based on your lifetime of earnings, including your military pay. As of 2012, the SSA sends out annual Social Security Statements which detail how much an individual is eligible for in disability and other Social Security benefits to workers 60 and older. A one-time mailing is sent to individuals in the year they turn 25. Everyone else 18 years and older can view his Social Security Statement online by visiting the SSA’s website and creating an account. Your disability benefits are tax-free and paid to you on a monthly basis.

Supplemental Security Income

SSI is a needs-based program for low-income disabled individuals. Unlike the Social Security disability program, you don’t need a work history to qualify. Instead, your income and assets and a qualifying disability determines your eligibility. For example, as of 2012, you’re ineligible for SSI if you own assets that are valued over $2,000, or $3,000 if you’re married. SSI benefit amounts are set by the SSA. Currently your benefit is $698 per month if you are single and $1,048 if you are married. Some states supplement the federal benefit rate with additional SSI payments. For example, if you live in California, you may receive $154.40 if you’re single and live alone and $396.20 if you’re married and live together in an independent settings.

Veterans Administration Benefits and Social Security

If you qualify for VA disability or pension benefits, it can affect the amount of SSA benefits you’re entitled to. You get VA benefits if you have a service-connected disability and meet service time requirements. VA benefits don’t affect your Social Security disability benefits, but they do reduce your SSI payments. If you have a non-service-connected disability, you can get VA pension benefits. Similar to SSI, VA pension benefits are needs-based, and payment amounts are affected by other types of income. Your Social Security disability benefits reduce your VA pension payments. If you’re getting SSI benefits, they’re reduced by VA pension benefits.