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GAO report challenges lawful approach to disability benefits

Disability benefit programs from different federal and state agencies may have separate qualifying requirements. For example, disabled service members may receive payments from the Veterans Administration for their disabilities, as well as VA retirement pay for their years of service.

The civilian counterpart to the VA’s disability program is the Social Security disability insurance program. Yet unlike the VA program, SSDI benefits are not awarded for partial disabilities. Rather, a SSDI beneficiary generally must be 100 percent disabled and unable to work in order to qualify. 

There are various criteria used by the Social Security Administration to determine if a disabled individual is unable to work. One indicator of work capacity might be earning at least $13,000 in annual income. However, VA benefits are not considered income, for purposes of SSDI eligibility. That means that a severely disabled veteran may be able to collect both VA disability and SSDI benefits.

According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, around 60,000 veterans might be drawing benefits from multiple programs, including VA retirement, VA disability and SSDI payments. Although that number may sound high, the percentage of affected military retirees is only about 3 percent.

The GAO report does a great disserve to the millions of deserving American veterans who depend on VA and SSDI benefits while a disabling condition prevents them from working. Given the skyrocketing costs of long-term care, no one who is fully disabled will be getting rich off of benefit payments. To the extent that multiple programs may make it possible for deserving disability recipients to afford quality treatments and care, we should celebrate that.

Source:, “Washington Times Lobs Grenades At Severely Disabled Veterans,” Benjamin Krause, Oct. 31, 2014 

Source: Washington Times, “Veterans caught triple-dipping on benefits,” Stephan Dinan, Oct. 30, 2014

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