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What you should know about Social Security disability benefits

Debbie Smith
Social Security Administration

President George W. BushPresident George W. Bush created the Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors to increase access to benefits and services for returning service members who have been wounded.

The Social Security Administration is doing all it can to make military service members, and their families, understand just how Social Security disability benefits can help wounded service personnel. In fact, Social Security disability benefits are expedited for injured military service personnel.

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. Also, 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 24, 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. Basically, if a person cannot work because of a physical or mental condition that is expected to last at least one year, 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.

It is important to understand our disability rules are different from those of private plans and other government agencies. Social Security provides benefits for total disability, not partial disability. The fact that someone qualifies for disability from another agency does not mean he or she will be automatically eligible for disability benefits from Social Security.

If you or someone you know is a wounded service member, file for Social Security disability benefits as soon as possible.

For more information, visit our Web site at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors. You can also call (800) 772-1213 for TTY (800) 325-0778) or the Anchorage office at 271-4824.