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Yolanda York, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist
www.socialsecurity.gov, reissue article, March 4, 2009
Men and women serving in the U.S. military who become disabled while on active duty are receiving ‘expedited processing’ of disability claims from Social Security. The expedited process is for military service members who were disabled on or after October 1, 2001, regardless of where the disability occurs. People in the military can apply for and receive benefits even while receiving military pay.
And to make things easier for our service men and women, we’ve developed an easily accessible website all about benefits for wounded warriors. Whether you’re stateside or deployed abroad, just visit www.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors. The website has everything you need to know about Social Security and military service — including a link to apply for disability benefits online.
As Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said, “I want to assure the brave men and women of our Armed Forces and their families that they will not have to wait for these needed benefits. Expedited processing is just one way Social Security can show our military personnel how much we appreciate their service in defense of our freedom.”
Once the application for Social Security disability benefits is taken, it is uniquely identified as being from a U.S. military service member, and it is expedited through all phases of processing, both in Social Security and the state Disability Determination Service, where the actual medical determination of disability is made.
Disabled military personnel may apply for disability benefits at any time while in active military status, or after discharge, whether they are still hospitalized, in a rehabilitation program or undergoing out-patient treatment in a military or civilian medical facility.
It is important to understand, however, that the definition of disability under Social Security is different than the definition of disability for veterans’ benefits. To be considered disabled under Social Security, you must be unable to do substantial work because of your medical condition(s); and your medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year or be expected to result in death. Also, Social Security does not provide benefits for people with partial disability or short-term disability.
Military servicemen and women can receive expedited service whether they apply for Social Security disability benefits online or in person at the nearest Social Security office. Like most civilian workers, current military personnel pay Social Security taxes and earn Social Security coverage. In fact, earnings for active duty military service or active duty training have been covered under Social Security since 1957.
Service personnel who had inactive duty service in the reserves (such as weekend drills) have had Social Security coverage since 1988.
The number of credits an individual needs to qualify for Social Security depends on his or her age. For example, if a person becomes disabled before age 24, then he or she would generally need only about one and a half years of recent work.
If the wounded service member has sufficient work, then Social Security must decide whether he or she meets Social Security’s definition of disability. If the person cannot work because of a physical or mental condition that is expected to last at least one year, then he or she may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
Even if the wounded service member is still receiving pay while disabled, he or she can receive disability benefits. For example, if a wounded soldier is recovering in a hospital, and is expected to be unable to work for at least a year, he or she may be eligible to receive disability benefits even though military pay continues.
The online site for applications from military personnel is www.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors . Disability applicants can also call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to schedule an appointment at their local Social Security office.
Today, and always, we at Social Security honor those who serve by serving them.