How do Social Security Disability Benefits work for Military Service Members?

Submitted by Daniel on

If you are a current or former US military service member and are disabled, you may be entitled to expedited processing on Social Security Disability claims. Disabled service members and veterans who have served since October, 2001 qualify, whether or not their disability was a direct result of military service (or whether it even occurred during their time of service).

The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees disability benefits such as SSDI, SSI, and Medicare. Disabled veterans may be eligible for any of these programs. It’s important to note, however, that these benefits are different from veteran’s benefits which are processed through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and that separate applications must be filled out and filed with the appropriate agencies.

The most common types of disability benefits for which you, as a veteran or service member may qualify if you are completely disabled include:

  • SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). Qualification for SSDI is based on how long you have worked, whether you have paid into FICA, and whether you are completely disabled.
  • SSI (Supplemental Security Income). Qualifications for SSI are based upon your economic need and take into consideration your assets, other forms of income, and whether you are completely disabled.

Receiving Veteran’s Benefits does not disqualify you from receiving Social Security Disability benefits if you are completely disabled. It’s worth pointing out, however that "complete disability” is defined differently with the SSA than it is in the military or with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

In the military, complete disability means that you can no longer be expected to perform at the level expected of service members. Obviously, being in the military requires you to be in reasonable good shape physically and mentally. If you are deemed medically unfit for military service, you will likely qualify for Veteran’s Benefits (if the disability occurred during your time of service or can be attributed directly to your service). That doesn’t necessarily qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits.

The SSA defines complete disability as follows:

  • To be considered completely disabled, you must have a medically verifiable condition which makes it impossible for you to perform any kind of work which you have performed in the past (the past 10 years, in particular, are considered).
  • To be considered completely disabled, you must further be deemed unable to perform any kind of work for which a person of your educational level could reasonably be trained. This requirement considers all types of work which are available throughout the whole country (not just the area where you live).

If you believe you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, consult a Social Security Disability lawyer. You are entitled to an expedited decision, but this does you little good if the decision is to deny your benefits. You are more likely to succeed at all levels of the appeals process if you are represented by a lawyer who is thoroughly familiar with SSA proceedings.

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