As a veteran, you may meet the eligibility requirements for both social security disability insurance (SSDI) and unemployability benefits. Although the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) are two separate agencies offering different benefit programs, you may feel confused about whether you can receive benefits from each.
Here’s what veterans should know about qualifying for social security disability and VA unemployability.
What Is VA Unemployability?
Even when you are unable to work due to a service-related disability, you might not receive enough monthly compensation from the VA to meet your needs. This can happen when your disability rating is less than 100%. The VA offers a program called individual unemployability (IU) to address this situation. You must meet the following eligibility criteria to receive IU:
- You are a veteran of a branch of the United States Armed Forces.
- You have been unable to maintain substantial or gainful employment due to your service-related disability.
- You have a single disability rating of at least 60 percent. You can also meet eligibility requirements by having multiple disabilities with one rated at least 40 percent or higher with a total rating of your disabilities at 70 percent or higher.
Individual unemployability (IU), also known as Total Disability based in Individual Unemployability (TDIU), is a VA program that awards disability pay at the same level you would have received had the VA rated your service-related disability at 100%.
The VA requires certain types of proof that you meet the eligibility requirements for TDIU. These include:
- Presenting written medical documentation that connects your disability to time you served in the military.
- Presenting written medical and vocational documentation outlining how your service-related disability alone prevents you from acquiring or maintaining gainful employment. Your service-related disability can prevent you from completing either physical tasks or mental tasks due to impaired cognition.
The VA may consider granting TDIU payments to a veteran whose disability ratings do not meet the criteria listed above. However, you need to present evidence demonstrating that applying the normal requirements is unreasonable in your case. One common example is when your service-related disability causes major disruptions in your employment due to frequent symptom flare-ups or hospitalizations.
What Is Social Security Disability?
Social Security Disability (SSDI) is a program through the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provides monthly payments to people with a qualifying disability. The SSA operates disability payments differently than the VA in that it only determines whether you meet the definition of disabled or not. That means the SSA does not assign any type of disability rating percentage to individual cases.
You must have worked a certain number of quarters over the course of your adult life and meet disability criteria to qualify for payments under the SSDI program. The most basic way in which the SSA determines if you have a qualifying disability is if your doctor expects it to last for at least 12 months or result in your death.
The SSA also requires your disability to be so severe that you cannot perform any type of work even with government-sponsored training. Lastly, SSDI is not an income-based program. Disabled people at any income level can apply for benefits.
Can You Receive VA Unemployability and Social Security Benefits?
You can receive the full amount for each program if you meet the eligibility criteria for each. Just keep in mind that you need to apply to each program separately, and that eligibility for one does not automatically make you eligible for the other.
If you apply for SSDI before TDIU benefits, the VA may request copies of the medical evidence you presented to the SSA when reviewing your disability claim. While the SSA considers any type of disability, the VA only pays benefits for service-related disabilities. You could potentially have a more challenging time qualifying for TDIU benefits if the VA does not see a service-related connection on your application for SSDI.
You are still eligible to apply for TDIU even if you already receive SSDI. Hill & Ponton has published several other blogs on the topic of individual unemployability and VA benefits. You are welcome to review anything that is helpful to you. We are also available to work with you if the VA has denied you for TDIU and you feel that you meet eligibility requirements.
If you need help with appealing a TDIU claim, please contact us at 1-888-373-9436 or complete this case evaluation form and we will follow up with you shortly.
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