Federal Financial Benefits and Health Care Coverage for Veterans with Disabilities

DRC Working Paper Number: 2015-03
Publisher: Washington, DC: Mathematica Center for Studying Disability Policy
Dec 04, 2015
Lucy Miller and John Kregel
This paper examines Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and Social Security Administration (SSA) financial benefit programs and health care programs available to veterans with disabilities. The benefit programs include Military Disability Retirement, Disability Compensation, Disability Pension, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). For each benefit program, we examine the purposes, program size and expenditures, eligibility determination procedures, interaction among the multiple programs, and the effect of earnings on benefit eligibility and amount. We also describe the TRICARE, Veterans Health System, Medicare, and Medicaid health care and health insurance programs. We found that Veterans Compensation is by far the largest of the DoD/VA programs, serving more than 3 million veterans. Military Retirement and Disability Compensation are not affected by earnings, except for veterans with the rating of “individually unemployable.” Financial disincentives to employment are found in the Veterans Pension, SSDI, and SSI programs. We also found that the multiple health care programs often complement one another and that, when veterans are eligible for Medicare or Medicaid, these programs can supplement the TRICARE and Veterans Health System programs. The policy implications of the findings are that the relatively high cash benefits in the Disability Compensation program and the employment disincentives in the SSDI and SSI programs in the predominantly older veteran population with significant health conditions and obstacles to employment.