How does being a veteran affect Social Security disability?

Many people know that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) pays benefits to soldiers who were injured and suffer a disability as a result of their military service. People may not know about the connection between veterans and Social Security disability, however.

One of the benefits veterans can receive through the Social Security program is expedited processing of their applications if they became disabled while on active military duty or as the result of war-related injuries. The VA gives veterans a compensation rating. Those veterans with a compensation of 100% permanent and total disability are eligible for expedited processing. Having a 100% compensation rating from the VA does not mean that a veteran will definitely receive social security disability benefits, however, because the two processes are separate and have different eligibility criteria.

As with non-veterans applying for social security disability, veterans seeking disability benefits from the Social Security Administration must establish that they have a medical condition that prevents them from doing substantial work and that the medical condition has lasted, or will last, for one year or result in the person’s death. Veterans are eligible to receive both disability benefits from the VA and from the SSA, and receipt of VA disability benefits will not affect Social Security disability benefits.

Although veterans are not eligible for social security disability benefits if they are doing substantial work for profit, receiving pay from the military or being listed in active duty does not preclude an applicant from receiving benefits. Instead, the primary inquiry is the actual work activity. While being on active duty does not make someone ineligible for benefits, veterans should notify Social Security regarding changes in a Navy Enlisted Classification, a Military Occupation Specialty Code, or an Air Force Specialty Code, as well as a permanent change of station.

Source: Social Security Administration, “Information for Wounded Warriors and Veterans Who Have A Compensation Rating of 100% Permanent & Total (P&T),” accessed on Oct. 21, 2014