Receiving both Social Security Disability and Veterans' Disability benefits

March 31, 2011

A misunderstanding exists that veterans cannot receive both Social Security disability and Veterans' disability benefits at the same time. This is not true. A veteran can receive both Social Security disability and service connected Veterans' disability benefits at the same time.

The misunderstanding occurs because both the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans' Affairs have two types of disability benefits. Both government agencies have one disability benefit program that analyzes a veteran's income and resources when determining eligibility and another disability benefit program that does not.

Through the Social Security Administration a veteran can be awarded Social Security Disability (also called SSDI, Disability, Disability Insurance benefits or Title 2 benefits) and/or Supplemental Security Income (also called SSI or Title 16 benefits).

Through the Department of Veterans' Affairs a veteran can be awarded either Service Connected benefits (also called Compensation) or Non-service Connected benefits (also called Pension).

In short, a veteran could receive both Service Connected/Compensation benefits and Social Security Disability benefits at the same time with no adverse affect on either benefit because eligibility is not determined by the veteran's income and resources. A veteran, however, could not receive Non-Service Connected/Pension benefits and Supplemental Security Income as eligibility is determined by income and resources. [See Quick Guide below].

In general, an award of Social Security Disability benefits is based on a veteran's work history and the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes paid. If a disabled veteran has enough quarters, due to taxes paid, and is receiving Disability benefits, his/her payments would not be affected if he/she won the $1 million lottery.

In contrast Supplemental Security Income benefits are based on the amount of income and resources a veteran has and not their work history. If a disabled veteran were receiving Supplemental Security Income and won the $1 million lottery, his/her payments would be stopped by the Social Security Administration. This is because the veteran is now over resources (has too much money) to be eligible for Supplemental Security Income.

Service Connected/Compensation veteran's benefits are awarded when a veteran suffers from a chronic physical or mental disability that was either caused by, arose during, or aggravated by his/her time in the military. If a veteran receiving Service Connected/Compensation benefits won the $1 million lottery, his/her payments would not be affected because the disability is related to the veteran's time in the military.

Non-service Connected/Pension veteran's benefits are awarded where a veteran who served during a war period is unable to work and has limited income and resources. If a veteran receiving Non-service Connected/Pension benefits won the $1 million lottery, his/her payments would be stopped by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Thus, a veteran could not receive both Non-service Connected/Pension benefits and Supplemental Security Income because the Social Security Administration looks at all of the veteran's income and resources including Non-service Connected/Pension benefits. The Social Security Administration will then offset Supplemental Security Income payments based on the amount of money received from the Department of Veteran's Affairs.

Note this offset of Supplemental Security Income will occur with nearly any source of income. Thus, if a veteran is receiving Service Connected/Compensation benefits, his/her eligibility for Supplemental Security Income would depend on the rating % assigned (and money awarded) by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Determining whether a veteran can receive disability benefits from both the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans' Affairs can get confusing. Therefore, we recommend contacting an individual who is experienced in both areas of law in order to help you understand the benefits available.

Quick Guide: Receipt of both Social Security and Veteran's disability benefits

Benefits Received
Service Connected (Compensation) & Social Security Disability: No monetary offset

Service Connected (Compensation) & Supplemental Security Income: Offset likely- depends on rating % by the Department of Veterans' Affairs

Non-Service Connected (Pension) & Social Security Disability: Offset likely- depends on amount of benefits received from Social Security

Non-Service Connected (Pension) & Supplemental Security Income: Offset will definitely occur