The Use of VA Disability Benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance Among Veterans

Janet M. WilmothAndrew S. London Colleen M. Heflin

WP#2013-6

Abstract

Although there is substantial functional limitation and disability among veterans of all ages, relatively little is known about veterans’ uptake of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Disability Benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance (DI).  This project uses data from the 1992, 1993, 1996, 2001, 2004, and 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation to examine veterans’ participation in VA and DI programs.  The results indicate that the majority of veterans do not receive VA or DI benefits, but veterans’ use of these programs has been increasing over time.  A higher percentage of veterans receive VA compensation only, which ranges from 4.9 percent in 1992 to 13.2 percent in 2008, than DI compensation only, which ranges from 2.9 percent in 1992 to 6.7 percent in 2008.  Furthermore, the rate of joint participation in these two programs is low, ranging from less than 1 percent in 1992 to 3.6 percent in 2008.  Veterans experience relatively few within-panel transitions between VA and DI programs.  Overall, the likelihood of any disability program use is higher among veterans who served during multiple time periods, are older, black or Hispanic, currently married, and have less than a high school education.  Among users, the likelihood of any VA use in contrast to only DI use is higher among veterans who served since 1990, are younger, Hispanic, highly educated, and currently married.  Among users, variation in the likelihood of any DI use relative to only VA use generally mirrors variation in the likelihood of any VA use, although there are differences in associations with race/ethnicity, education, and marital status.