05legally speaking

President Trump has released his budget plan for the Veteran Affairs. While it does propose a significant overall budget increase, there are quite a few changes individual veterans need to be aware of. One significant change will affect veterans currently receiving benefits under the Individual Unemployability Program.  

The IUP is part of the Veterans Affairs’s disability compensation program. It allows certain veterans to be compensated at a 100 percent disability rate, even if their Veterans Affairs disability rating is lower than 100 percent. 

To qualify for this program, a veteran must have a disability rating of at least 60 percent or a combined rating of at least 70 percent. These disabilities must prevent the veteran from obtaining full-time work above the poverty level. Once a veteran enrolls in this program, they are compensated by
the Veterans Affairs at 100 percent disability. 

Under the new Veterans Affairs budget, this program will no longer exist. This means approximately 225,000 veterans who currently use the program will need to transition to either Social Security benefits or find another way to compensate for this loss of income. 

The policy argument behind the transition is that by doing this, the Veterans Affairs will save $20 million in Fiscal Year 2018 and the harm to veterans is minor given that veterans can apply for Social Security benefits. The practicalities of this transition, however, are a different story. 

While veterans can apply for Social Security benefits, it is unlikely that all veterans enrolled in the unemployability program will actually qualify for Social Security. The qualifications for the programs are very different, with the Veterans Affairs program having less stringent qualifications. 

The good news is that for totally disabled veterans, the average success rate of a Social Security claim is higher than the general population. 

The issue will be the gap between what the Veterans Affairs program rated 100 percent and what Social Security will consider rated disability. The truth is, we won’t know the reality of this impact until we see whether these veterans are actually getting Social Security. 

If you are a veteran currently receiving benefits under the IUP, seek out a veterans law or disability lawyer to help you file a claim. Your Veterans Affairs benefits may be on a
short timeline.

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