You’ve been receiving veterans’ disability benefits for a few months now, and it’s helping you to pay the bills while you’re unable to work. However, your doctor thinks your condition may be getting worse, and wants to run some tests to see if you need additional procedures. You know that this will probably mean you won’t be able to do any work for a while, but your VA benefits are not going to be enough to pay your rent and all of your expenses. Can you get Social Security disability as well as VA benefits—and if so, how soon could you be paid?

How Is Social Security Disability Different From VA Disability Benefits?

The first thing you should know is that veterans’ disability compensation is paid through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), while Social Security disability is paid through the Social Security Administration (SSA). These two separate entities have two different qualifications for disabilities, work requirements, and payment eligibility. Social Security will be quick to tell you that it is not required to follow the findings of the Veterans Adminstration.

The biggest differences in Social Security disability and Veterans disability include:

  • How the injury occurred. Veterans can only collect VA disability benefits if their disability or disease occurred during—or was a result of—active service in the armed forces. The VA generally requires the diagnosis to be medically proven using lab tests, scans, and doctor’s opinions on when and why the injury occurred.
  • Degree of disability. Under the VA system, injured veterans are each assigned a disability rating from 10 percent to 100 percent disabled. The VA then determines the amount of compensation based on this percentage. In contrast, the SSA will only award benefits to people who are completely disabled. Social Security also requires that your condition must be expected to last for at least 12 months in order to qualify for payments.
  • Physician’s opinion. In Social Security disability cases, any “treating physician” who has given regular care to a veteran is considered a reliable source of medical information, meaning these doctors’ opinions are relied on as medical evidence in a Social Security claim. VA benefits, on the other hand, must be awarded based on the content of the veteran’s entire medical file.
  • Recent work. Only people who have paid into Social Security funds can receive Social Security disability benefits. To qualify, you must have worked recently and have worked long enough during your lifetime in a job that contributed to Social Security. Veterans do not need to meet these qualifications to get VA benefits.

If you qualify for Social Security disability, you will have to complete an application and wait for approval. However, some disabilities qualify for expedited payments—and yours could be one of them. Email us today at [email protected] to find out how to get your benefits as quickly as possible.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska