Social Security Disability Benefits for Wounded Veterans

Disability benefits for wounded veterans are available from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Veteran’s Administration (VA).  These are two separate federal disability benefit programs that have different criteria for approval, which means getting approved by one agency does not guarantee that a person will be approved by the other.   However, there are special rules that govern Social Security Disability (SSDI) claims to make the process somewhat easier and faster.

Just like anyone else applying for SSDI, wounded veterans must have worked long enough and paid a sufficient amount into Social Security to earn the requisite number of work credits to qualify for SSDI. The number of necessary credits varies by a person’s age at the onset of their disability, but is generally 40.  These credits may be earned through active military duty or at a civilian job.   In addition, the veteran must meet SSA’s definition of disability, which requires the claimant be completely disabled and unable to perform any type of work.  Also the disability must be expected to last at least one year or result in death.  This differs from the VA’s disability program that allows wounded veterans to get partial or percentage disability benefits depending on the severity of their disabling condition.

Although the qualifying standards are the same for disabled veterans and non-veterans, there is an expedited review process for military service personnel that became disabled while they were on active duty from October 1, 2001 to the present.  It does not matter where the disability occurred, meaning the disabling condition does not need to be a related to military service, just that it occurred while the individual was on active duty.  These claimants are all processed as critical cases, and can receive notification of a decision in weeks instead of months.   This expedited status runs through all levels of the SSDI process, so even if an appeal is necessary, the wait will be significantly shorter.

In addition to expedited reviews, disabled military personnel are not automatically disqualified from receiving SSDI benefits based solely on being listed as being on active duty and receiving full military pay.   Since it is possible for military personnel to receive full pay while sick or injured and working on a limited duty assignment or undergoing therapy, this situation does not automatically disqualify a claimant.  Instead, the SSA will focus on the tasks the individual actually performs as part of their daily job to decide if the claimant is disabled.