Is Receiving Benefits From Multiple Programs Legal for Veterans?

SSD and VA Disability Compensation

Disabled people who receive both unemployment benefits and Social Security Disability have received considerable media attention. In essence, this attention is part of the effort to demonize the disabled by painting them as greedy and undeserving. Although veterans are less likely to come under such scrutiny, several stories have appeared recently in local and national media about disabled vets who receive benefits from more than one program.

Difference Between SSD and VA Disability Compensation

Since veterans are entitled to receive both Social Security Disability and disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), some have questioned whether veterans receiving benefits from both sources are overcompensated. These critics, however, often fail to recognize that these two benefit programs are designed to compensate for different losses: disability compensation from the VA is designed to compensate veterans for any reduction in earning capacity as a result of any service-related disabilities, while Social Security Disability benefits are available only to those who have worked and paid into Social Security prior to becoming disabled. Simply put, these programs are not government handouts, and there are very stringent rules to qualify for benefits.

VA Disability Compensation and Military Pensions

Receiving both VA disability compensation and a military pension is also a possibility, provided you meet certain rules. Although veterans were historically required to offset their military retired pay dollar-for-dollar against their VA disability compensation, these offset provisions have been phased out for veterans who have a service-related impairment rated 50% or more with at least 20 years of military service. This is known as "concurrent receipt" or officially as Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP).

There is also Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) which allows concurrent receipt if retired with 20 years of service, or medically retired from service with less than 20 years, with a combat-related disability of 10% or more.

Unfortunately, veterans with less than 20 years of service with non-combat related disabilities and those with service-related disabilities rated 40% or less which are not related to combat are still subject to the retired pay offset.

Retired veterans eligible to receive both CRDP and CRSC must choose one or the other. An important consideration when determining which benefit to select is that CRDP benefits are taxable while CRSC benefits are not.

VA Disability Compensation, Military Retired Pay and SSD

A 2013 audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) showed that 59,251 individuals were receiving all three types of benefits. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, made several recommendations based on the results of that audit. First, concurrent receipt should go back to the pre-2004 program that did not allow veterans to receive both military retired pay and VA disability benefits. The other recommendation was that the Social Security Administration should include VA benefits when calculating a claimant's income.

Veterans' advocates have argued that since the different programs award benefits for different aspects of a veteran's service or for a different type of disability, the programs should continue to allow receiving benefits from multiple sources. However, Congressional Republicans have targeted this small number of veterans.

Because of the complex rules that apply when seeking multiple benefits, and because of the public attention currently being paid to veterans who are legally receiving multiple benefits, it is important to get assistance with your claims so that you receive everything to which you are entitled.