Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, is an income-replacement program for Americans who can no longer work because of disability. Veterans with a disability can qualify for both SSDI and VA disability benefits, but the programs are separate. Veterans Guide outlines what you need to know about SSDI for veterans and how you can apply. We’re here to help disabled veterans access the government benefits they are entitled to.

Americans who have contributed to Social Security through payroll taxes deducted from their paychecks may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI. The taxes fund this program, providing benefits to those who can no longer work because of disability. Veterans can qualify for SSDI in addition to VA disability benefits. However, they must apply for each separately, and each program has different criteria. Veterans Guide can help you get the full support you’re entitled to from these government programs.

What is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance provides benefits to people who cannot work because of a disability. SSDI is available to all Americans who qualify, regardless of whether they are veterans.

SSDI is administered by the Social Security Administration, which also administers the Supplemental Security Income program, or SSI. If you have a disability, you might qualify for both programs. To be eligible for SSDI, you must have a work history and have paid Social Security taxes. To qualify for SSI, you must have limited income and resources.

If you are a veteran who is currently receiving SSI, you might want to get a VA disability rating. The benefits you can receive from the Veterans Administration might be more than what you receive from SSI. 

Who Qualifies for SSDI?

SSDI is for disabled veterans who cannot work because of their disability. The Social Security Administration (SSA) decides your eligibility based on two factors:

The SSA uses a credit system to decide if you have the required work history. You can earn a maximum of 4 credits per year working in Social Security-covered jobs. To qualify for SSDI, you must have accrued 40 credits, 20 of which were from the 10 years before your disability’s onset.

To determine if you meet the definition of disability, the SSA looks at five criteria:

As part of the veterans’ SSDI application process, you must submit information about your work and medical histories. The SSA’s Adult Disability Checklist provides an overview of the information you must provide.

How is SSDI Calculated?

The SSA calculates your monthly benefit amount for SSDI based on your average lifetime earnings. However, it’s not as simple as adding up your past pay stubs. The SSA uses a four-step process to arrive at a figure:

  1. Your average indexed monthly earnings, or AIM
  2. Your primary insurance amount, or PIA, based on your AIM
  3. Your family’s maximum amount, or FMAX, typically 150 to 188 percent of your PIA
  4. Your monthly benefit amount, often 100 percent of the PIA

The SSA might reduce your monthly benefit if you also receive workers’ compensation or other public disability benefits. However, VA disability benefits do not reduce your SSDI payment

What Are the Key Differences Between VA Benefits and SSDI?

The VA and SSA are both federal government departments but are separate organizations operating under different guidelines. It is possible to get both VA and SSDI benefits simultaneously.

The VA and the SSA Have Their Own Respective Guidelines for Eligibility

The VA and SSA have different criteria for eligibility. For example, the VA requires that your disability be connected to your time in service. The SSA has no such service connection requirement. However, to get SSDI, you must have earned enough credits through payroll taxes withheld by your employer.

The VA and the SSA Will View Evidence Differently

Both the VA and SSA require documentation of your medical condition. However, they require different evidence and interpret it differently. 

For example, the VA must determine that the condition resulted from or worsened because of your military service. The VA recognizes some conditions as presumptively connected to your service.  For all conditions, the VA assigns each disability a rating according to how it impacts your ability to function. 

Meanwhile, the SSA analyzes your condition to determine whether it prevents you from working at any job. The condition does not have to be service-connected or even work-related. 

The SSA Doesn’t Have Percentage Ratings

The VA assigns disability ratings according to severity. You can get VA benefits for a service-connected disability but still be able to work. The SSA does not use percentage ratings. Veterans with a 100 percent VA rating will have the highest chance of getting SSDI since they are unable to work. The SSDI application determines whether or not your medical condition meets the definition of disability. For example if a PTSD condition makes it difficult to maintain employment, then you are likely to qualify for SSDI benefits.

The VA pays set amounts to every eligible veteran based on a disability rating. The benefit amount does not depend on your work record, income history, or available resources. In contrast, your SSDI benefit depends on your lifetime income and your contributions to the Social Security system via payroll taxes. 

What SSDI Benefits Are Available to Veterans?

Veterans can get several other benefits through the U.S. government in addition to SSDI. These include the following:

How to Apply for SSDI for Veterans Benefits

You can apply for SSDI benefits online through the SSA website, in person at your local SSA office, or by phone at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The application asks for information about you, your medical condition, and your work history. You must also provide the following documentation: 

If you need assistance applying for SSDI benefits, someone at Veterans Guide might be able to help. Contact us today.


Veterans who cannot work because of a service-connected disability but do not have a 100 percent disability rating may qualify for total disability based on individual unemployability benefits, or TDIU. TDIU pays eligible veterans the same benefits as those with a 100 percent rating.

If you can’t work because of your disability, you can get both SSDI and TDIU benefits. However, it’s important to remember the VA and SSA have separate applications. If you have a VA TDIU designation, you must still meet the SSA’s criteria for disability to receive SSDI benefits.

Common Issues in Veterans’ SSDI Claims

You might run into some roadblocks during an SSDI claim, such as:

Hiring an SSDI Lawyer

An SSDI lawyer can help you gather the necessary documentation to support your SSDI for veterans’ claims. They can work with you to fully understand your medical condition and how it impacts your ability to work. 

To learn more about how you can get the full benefits you need through SSDI, contact Veterans Guide today.

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