Most people think of Social Security as a benefit for retirees. In most cases, you need to be age 62 or older to receive social security benefits, but there are other situations when one can receive Social Security benefits. One example is Social Security Disability Insurance, and if you are a wounded veteran, or current military member who is unable to perform his or her duties due to an illness or injury, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability Benefits under a program called the Social Security Disability Benefits for Wounded Warriors. And it’s also possible in some situations to receive these benefits when you are on active duty without affecting your pay or other benefits. Let’s take a closer look at this program and how it can benefit our nation’s Wounded Warriors.
Social Security Disability Benefits for Wounded Warriors
The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability insurance benefits to qualified tax payers in the event they are determined to be disabled by the SSA. There are two primary forms of disability benefits provided by the SSA, including:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which pays disability benefits to the member and in some cases, select family members if they are insured (to qualify, one must have paid Social security taxes and worked the required number of years, which varies depending on age).
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which pays disability benefits based on financial need.
Who is Eligible to Receive Social Security Disability Benefits?
The Social Security Administration only pays disability benefits for long-term or permanent disabilities. They do not pay benefits for short-term or partial disabilities.
Service members who are injured or ill may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits if they are determined to be disabled by the SSA, which uses the following criteria: The member must be
- Unable to do substantial work because of medical condition(s); and
- Medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year or to result in death.
The SSA also considers how long someone worked, and whether or not he or she has paid Social Security taxes. The years worked to qualify for these benefits vary by age.
Social Security Disability Payments and Active Duty Service
Military service can affect your Social Security benefits, in some cases, increasing your Social Security Benefits. If you are unable to work while on active duty, you may also be eligible to receive SSDI through the Social Security Benefits for Wounded Warriors program.
For example, Active duty military members may be able to receive these Social Security benefits if they are recovering in a hospital or are otherwise unable to work. This can include events such as an illness, being wounded, undergoing physical therapy, receiving treatment at a military medical facility, performing limited duty, or otherwise being disabled. They are able to receive these benefits in conjunction with their standard pay and benefits.
Though the criteria to qualify for SSDI includes a rule which requires recipients to be “unable to do substantial work because of medical conditions,” that doesn’t mean a SSDI recipient can’t work a part time job or earn money through other sources. In some cases, it is perfectly acceptable to receive pay and or other compensation while receiving Social Security Disability Benefits.
Before taking a job while receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, it is a good idea to contact the SSA and or your potential employer to determine if you will be eligible to continue receiving Social Security Disability Insurance if you perform any work.
Social Security Disability is Different than Disability Benefits from the VA
It is important to note that military veterans may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits and Veterans Disability benefits from the VA. These two programs are not the same, and must be applied for separately.
These two programs also do not have the same definitions for what qualifies as a disability. It is possible to receive a partial or short-term disability rating from the VA. The Social Security Administration, on the other hand, does not offer benefits for short-term or partial disabilities. The SSA only provides benefits for those who have been out of work for a year, or whose medical condition is expected to last a year or longer, or whose injuries are expected to result in death.
How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits for Wounded Warriors
Service members and veterans who are wounded, ill, or injured and are expected to be unable to perform work for a year or longer should apply for Social Security Disability Benefits as soon as they are able. The SSA requires supporting documentation, including identifying documents, proof of citizenship, and medical records which demonstrate the medical conditions facing the applicant. You should still file even if you are waiting on documentation, as it will get the file started.
Disabled military members may apply for these SSA benefits at any time, including while still on active duty, after they have received their military discharge, or while they are receiving medical care in a civilian or military medical facility.
Wounded Warriors Get Expedited Processing
The SSA identifies military members who were serving on active duty and were disabled on or after October 1, 2001, as Wounded Warriors. All applications from these qualifying U.S. servicemembers are expedited through all the steps in the application process. (note: Servicemembers who were disabled before October 1, 2001 can still apply for the Social Security Disability Benefits, however, the claim may or may not be expedited). You will be notified once a medical determination is made on your disability claim.
For more information, please visit the Wounded Warriors page on the SSA site, use the online application, or read more in the Disability Benefits for Wounded Warriors brochure.
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