Impacts of the 2010 VA PTSD Rule Change on Participation in SSA Disability Programs
Veterans who could qualify for disability benefits from both the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) might view them as complementary or as substitutes for each other. For example, people who earn above a certain income lose their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, whereas VA Disability Compensation (DC) benefits do not change based on income. Veterans with disabilities who wish to work may therefore prefer to receive DC over SSDI, in effect treating the two programs as substitutes. We examined how an eligibility rule change in DC affected participation in DC, SSDI, and Supplemental Security Income to understand whether veterans with disabilities increase or reduce their take-up of SSA disability benefits when access to DC increases. Using Current Population Survey data from 2009 to 2016, we studied a 2010 DC rule change that made it easier for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder to demonstrate eligibility. After the rule change, veterans with self-reported cognitive difficulties reported increased receipt of DC, reduced receipt of SSDI, and reduced rates of work-limiting disability, seeming to treat the two benefit programs as substitutes.