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Disability Compensation: Review of Concurrent Receipt of Department of Defense Retirement, Department of Veterans Affairs Disability Compensation, and Social Security Disability Insurance

GAO-14-854R Published: Sep 30, 2014. Publicly Released: Oct 30, 2014.
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What GAO Found

GAO’s analysis showed that 59,251 individuals received concurrent payments from Department of Defense (DOD) retirement, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability, and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in fiscal year 2013 totaling over $3.5 billion.  Current law generally allows military personnel to receive concurrent disability compensation from DOD, VA, and SSDI. There were 1.9 million nondisability and disability retirees as of September 30, 2013.  Sixty-eight percent of the individuals receiving concurrent payments each received from $25,000 to $74,999 in total compensation.  A total of 2,304 individuals received concurrent payments of $100,000 or more, with the highest beneficiary receiving $208,757.  The age of individuals receiving concurrent payments ranged from 19 to 66, with almost half (48 percent) of the individuals being age 60 or above as of January 2013.  Eighty-one percent of individuals had a VA disability rating equal to or greater than 50 percent.  Seventeen percent received compensation due to a combat-related disability. GAO randomly selected a total of seven individuals to illustrate instances of concurrent receipt of benefits.  These seven examples individually received from $19,210 to $152,719 in concurrent benefits.        

Why GAO Did This Study

The SSDI trust fund faces serious fiscal-sustainability challenges.  The Social Security Board of Trustees projects that the SSDI trust fund will be exhausted in 2016 and notes that changes designed to improve the financial status of the SSDI program are needed soon.  In a July 2012 report, GAO identified over 100,000 SSDI beneficiaries who received concurrent cash-benefit payments from the SSDI and unemployment-insurance programs totaling more than $850 million.  Given the findings of that report, GAO was asked to examine other federal benefit programs that could be overlapping with disability programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  This report (1) identifies the number of disabled military personnel who received concurrent benefit payments from DOD retirement, VA disability compensation, and SSDI during fiscal year 2013 and (2) provides case-study examples of disabled military personnel receiving concurrent benefits. To conduct this work, GAO identified those individuals who received benefits from all three programs and summed the monthly payment amounts from each program to determine the total amount of benefits.  In addition to the overall analysis, GAO randomly selected seven individuals to illustrate instances of concurrent receipt of benefits.  To randomly select individuals who received concurrent benefits, GAO stratified its sample of individuals into seven categories by total concurrent income and randomly selected one individual from each stratum.  GAO verified the payment data utilized to select the samples with knowledgeable agency officials.  The results cannot be projected to the entire population of individuals receiving such benefits. 


GAO is not making any recommendations.  VA generally agreed and SSA and DOD did not have any comments.

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ConcurrencyDisabilitiesDisability benefitsDisability insuranceEligibility determinationsFederal social security programsIncome taxesMilitary disability retirement payMilitary personnelPeople with disabilitiesRetirement benefitsRetireesSocial security benefitsUnemployment compensation programsVeterans benefitsVeterans disability compensation