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Disability Information for Veterans

By: Janet Ambrose
Veterans who were disabled in the line of duty may be eligible for VA disability benefits as well as Social Security disability benefits. The two programs are separate and have their own rules. Each requires its own application. Social Security disability is also available for civilians who are disabled and cannot work. The amount of VA disability compensation a veteran receives depends on how severe their disability it.

Requirements for VA Disability

For a veteran to be eligible to receive disabled veterans benefits from the VA, they must have been injured or become ill while on active duty. A veteran may also be eligible for VA disability compensation if their injury or illness was pre-existing and was made worse by serving on active duty. While less common, a vet may receive disabled veterans benefits if their disability occurred while they were receiving healthcare from the VA. To receive the benefits, a veteran must not have received a dishonorable discharge.

Applying for VA Disability Benefits

Veterans can apply for VA disability compensation either by completing a paper application or by applying online. If they decide to fill out a paper application, they will need to complete the Veterans Application for Compensation or Pension, VA Form 21-526. Generally, a veteran should supply supporting documents when applying for disabled veterans benefits. Reports from the hospitals and doctors who treated the veteran, as well as information on the veteran's dependents, and their discharge papers should be included in the application to support the claim.

Social Security Disability

People who are disabled and cannot work may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, including disabled veterans. The benefits are only available to people who have full disability, meaning it is expected to last for at least a year or result in the death of the person. The disability must prevent the person from doing work that they would be compensated for. In some cases, the person's family may be eligible for the disability benefits.

Eligibility for Social Security Disability Benefits

The eligibility rules for Social Security disability vary based on a person's age. The younger a disabled person is, the fewer years of work history they need to qualify for the benefits. For example, a person under age 24 generally only needs to have worked for one and half years to receive benefits. Someone who becomes disabled at age 60, though, will need to have worked for at least nine and a half years. Those who become disabled before the age of 22 can use their parent's work record and earnings to qualify for benefits.

Veteran's Social Security Disability Benefits

Eligibility rules for disabled veterans who wish to receive Social Security VA disability benefits are similar to the rules for civilians. Veterans and active duty personnel are eligible for Social Security if they became disabled on active duty on or after October 1, 2001. It does not matter where the disability occurred. Veterans may be eligible for Social Security based on their work history. They may qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits based on their income and financial need.

The application process for wounded veterans and active duty personnel is expedited compared to the process for civilians. A veteran can speed up the process more by supplying the information about the doctors they saw and by telling the administration that the disability occurred while the person was on active duty. The time it takes a person to receive a decision from the administration also depends on the type of disability and whether or not they will have to undergo a separate medical examination to confirm the disability.

Amount of VA Disability Compensation

How much disabled veterans receive from the VA or from Social Security disability benefits depends on several factors. Veterans with dependents such as a spouse and children will generally receive a greater amount of benefits from the VA. The severity of the disability also impacts how many benefits the veteran receives. Usually, they will get a higher amount if they have lost a limb or if their spouse is severely disabled as well.

Social Security disability benefits are figured based on the expected lifetime earnings of a person. Family members of a disabled person may also receive benefits if they are children or a spouse who is caring for a child or is over the age of 62. The money a person earns if they are serving in the military while receiving Social Security disability benefits does not affect the amount they receive. The amount of work they carry out in the military while receiving disability benefits may affect their eligibility, though.


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