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VA Disability Rating & SSDI Eligibility: Am I Eligible for SSDI With a VA Disability Rating?

Disabled male veteran is sitting in wheelchair woman is sitting nearby

Many veterans apply for both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and veterans’ disability benefits (VA) at the same time. In fact, some veterans apply for and receive VA disability before they even apply for SSDI. If you receive VA benefits, are you disqualified from also receiving SSDI? If you have a low VA disability rating, will that prohibit you from collecting SSDI benefits? Read on for a discussion of how VA disability benefits and SSDI interact. Call a seasoned California social security disability insurance lawyer for help understanding and improving your eligibility for SSDI or for other help obtaining disability coverage.

Veterans Can Receive Both SSDI and VA Benefits

At the outset, we can definitively state that veterans can be eligible for both SSDI and VA benefits. Moreover, VA benefits are not included in the calculation of an applicant’s “income” for the sake of SSDI eligibility because they are not considered “earned income.” However, VA benefits will count toward a veteran’s income for the purposes of supplemental security income (SSI).

VA Disability Rating

One of the key differences between SSDI and VA disability benefits is the disability rating. To qualify for SSDI, an applicant must demonstrate that they are entirely disabled and unable to work. There is no “partial disability” or “partial loss of employability.”

In contrast, veterans can receive VA compensation without being totally disabled. They will be assessed with a disability rating between 0% and 100%, which affects the amount of the benefits to which they are entitled. Veterans can receive certain benefits even if their disability rating is as low as 10%, and they may even obtain a rating of 0% while still demonstrating some service-related disability (if the ailment deteriorates, it will be much easier to obtain benefits having already shown the disability is connected to service).

Does VA Eligibility Help or Hurt SSDI Eligibility?

Historically, having a very high VA rating (over 70%) would provide strong support for later claiming SSDI; VA disability ratings were entitled to significant weight for the sake of establishing disability for SSDI. In 2017, however, Social Security issued new regulations stating that they would no longer take VA ratings into account when deciding whether to grant disability benefits. The Social Security Administration will not even state whether it considered VA approvals when reviewing an application for SSDI. On the plus side, that means that a low disability rating from the VA will not necessarily disqualify someone from obtaining SSDI if they can present different evidence to convince the government they should be eligible for SSDI.

Notably, the VA and the Department of Defense share medical records with Social Security, so they are likely to take the same evidence into account, even if they do not respect the decision made by the VA. If you are relying on the same evidence when applying for SSDI that got you a low VA rating, then you are likely not disabled for the purpose of SSDI.

Call Today for Immediate Help Pursuing a California Disability Claim

For help obtaining disability benefits in southern California or statewide, call the dedicated and compassionate Social Security Disability (SSD/SSI) attorneys Drake & Drake at 818-914-4055.

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