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Military service members can receive expedited processing of disability claims from Social Security. Benefits available through Social Security are different from those through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and require a separate application. The expedited process is used for military service members who become disabled while on active military duty on or after October 1, 2001, regardless of where the disability occurs.
A wounded warrior can receive benefits either through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program or the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The former pays benefits to the wounded warrior and members of their family if they are insured, while the latter pays benefits based on financial need.
The impairment a wounded warrior suffers must meet the same definition of disability as anyone else applying for Social Security benefits. To be eligible and considered disabled, the servicemember’s ability to work must be impacted by their medical condition, and this condition must be expected to last over a year or to result in death. The Social Security Administration does not award benefits to individuals with partial or short-term disabilities.
Being on active duty and receiving military pay does not necessarily make someone ineligible to receive Social Security benefits. Specifically, the amount of pay a servicemember receives could impact their eligibility for SSI, but not for SSDI. This is because SSI is awarded based on a person’s available income and assets, whereas SSDI is awarded based on whether a person is able to maintain gainful or fulltime employment.
Wounded warriors can apply for Social Security disability benefits at any time, even if they are on active duty, currently hospitalized, or receiving out-patient treatment from a military or civilian hospital. The application for disability benefits can be found on the SSA’s website and may be completed online, in person, by phone, or by mail.
Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law