Does Social Security Impact Your TDIU Benefits?

VA attorneys help you get the most out of your government benefits

Disabled veterans should be aware that they can qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits as well as VA benefits for Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) with no offset. In other words, you can collect the full amount of both SSDI and TDIU. However, even though these programs have some overlaps, they are designed for different purposes and have different criteria.

What are the different requirements for SSDI and TDIU?

The two programs were created to address different concerns. SSDI is insurance that replaces income a worker loses because of a total disability. Every American worker pays into the SSDI system through payroll taxes. A worker’s eligibility for SSDI and the level of benefits the worker can receive depend on the applicant’s work history. Veterans can be eligible for SSDI because like every other worker, service members pay payroll taxes. But how much a veteran might draw from SSDI depends on the number of years worked and the level of earnings.

On the other hand, TDIU is not an income replacement program. It is a benefit meant to compensate a veteran for being disabled. With TDIU, unlike SSDI, a veteran does not have to be totally disabled to receive the benefit but the disability must be service related. Vets with disabilities arising from civilian work can file a claim with workers’ compensation. If the disability is not service or work related, the vet can apply for SSDI and in some cases Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Both SSDI and TDIU are based on a finding of disability but the agencies evaluate disabilities differently: The Social Security Administration (SSA) gives great deference to the applicant’s treating physician while the VA makes decisions based on the applicant’s entire file. Because of these differences, it’s possible a disabled vet could be cleared to receive TDIU but be denied SSDI or vice versa. Still, veterans can expect some special consideration:

  • SSA has an expedited process for wounded warriors. If you have a VA compensation rating of 100 percent Permanent and Total (P&T), the SSA will fast-track your disability benefit application.
  • Your VA rating does not automatically make you eligible for SSDI, but courts have ruled that SSA should give that rating great weight when evaluating your claim.
  • VA disability ratings are not tied directly into vocational abilities the way SSA’s ratings are. But findings by the VA that a veteran requires extra assistance in eating, bathing, or dressing; is “housebound;” or is “unemployable” carry significant weight in SSA determinations of disability. Likewise, the SSA determinations and supporting evidence that are favorable for a Veteran have to be considered by the VA. However, VA is not bound by SSA determinations at all.

Therefore, vets who are already receiving TDIU have some advantages when applying from SSDI. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work the other way around: vets receiving SSDI cannot expect help in applying for TDIU.

Let our veterans’ benefits attorneys stand up for your disability rights

Disabled veterans deserve the full measure of benefits they can obtain. At Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban, P.C., our VA accredited attorneys are determined to help you obtain TDIU and SSDI benefits when appropriate. From anywhere in the country, you can call us at 866-866-VETS and someone will be ready to talk to you, or you can contact us online. Our firm never hits you with upfront charges, and there are no fees unless we win your claim for benefits.