Special SSDI Programs for Wounded Warriors
The Social Security Administration has programs in place to help wounded warriors get the disability benefits they need. As of 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that one-quarter of the nation’s 4.7 million veterans had service-connected disabilities. For some, injuries suffered in the line of service may prevent them from continuing their military careers or obtaining other gainful employment.
Receiving Social Security for Service-Connected Disabilities
Wounded military veterans who meet the requirements may receive disability benefits through two SSA programs – Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. Through SSDI, qualifying veterans or servicemembers and certain of their family members may receive monthly cash payments and medical care. The amount of these cash payments depends on factors such as applicants’ earnings histories. While other incomes may affect veterans’ eligibility for SSDI, receiving disability payments through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not.
Differing Definitions of Disability
Those who meet the VA’s definition of disability must also meet the SSA’s definition to qualify for SSDI benefits. Social Security does not account for veterans’ VA ratings. Rather, the SSA bases benefit determinations on whether applicants have a qualifying condition that keeps them from doing substantial work and have met the requisite work histories. Thus, having a 100% VA disability rating does not guarantee injured veterans will qualify for SSDI benefits.
Expedited Processing for Veterans
Some veterans seeking Social Security may receive expedited application processing. The SSA automatically identifies the applications of wounded warriors, or those who served on or after October 1, 2001, and suffered a disability while on active duty and those with 100% permanent and total disability ratings from the VA. Once marked for fast-tracking, the agency pushes these applications through the disability determination processes at the SSA field and state offices.
Remaining on Active Duty and Returning to Work
Disabled military servicemembers may still receive SSDI benefits while they remain on active duty. Social Security may consider their previous military occupation, current military occupation and functional capacity in making such determinations. Changes in their work and duty status may affect their disability benefits.
Through Social Security’s work incentives, veterans receiving disability benefits may test their ability to go back to work. Once notified, the SSA may conduct a work continuing disability review to determine whether they are performing substantial work. If their work does not qualify as substantial gainful activity, injured veterans earning full pay may still qualify to receive SSDI benefits.