I hope I don’t need to tell you that there’s a huge population of wounded warriors in the United States. With the number of wars we’ve been involved in over the past 30, 40 and even 50 years, it’s no surprise that we are a nation with a large number of former soldiers who came back from their wars with wounds that go beyond the surface. As many of these warriors will tell you, their superficial wounds are only part of the picture. War does awful things to a human psyche, and there’s often no option for these wounded soldiers to get the help they so desperately need.
Not that there aren’t programs out there to help. Most wounded warriors are familiar with the benefits available to them through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. But many of them are not necessarily familiar with the additional benefits available to them through social security.
Social Security, while technically available to every American citizen (though there are plenty of questions as to the longevity of this program), has some additional features that certain wounded warriors can take advantage of. Most notably, expedited processing of disability claims. And any soldier who became disabled while on active military service on or after October 1, 2001 can apply for these benefits.
What’s Available to Wounded Warriors?
Wounded warriors can take advantage of their social security benefits through two different programs. The Social Security Disability Insurance Program pays benefits to soldiers (and sometimes to certain family members) if they are considered to be insured. To be considered insured, a soldier must meet certain criteria that prove he or she worked long enough and paid social security taxes.
The other program is called the Supplemental Security Income Program, and pays out benefits based on an assessment of financial need.
How Is Eligibility Determined?
To be eligible for the above programs you must meet certain definitions of what it means to have been disabled. In general, you need to meet two different criteria.
First, you must be unable perform substantial work as a result of your injuries. Certain part time job functions can still be held if you plan to collect social security, but if you want to be certain it’s best to talk to any potential employers and the social security office for details.
Additionally, your injuries must result in a condition that has either lasted or is reasonably expected to last at least one year. There’s a second half of this clause which states that if your injuries are expected to result in your death, you may also be qualified without needing to meet time requirements.
Does Accepting Social Security Benefits Affect My Military Pay?
Not necessarily. The rule states clearly that in order to qualify for social security payments you cannot engage in what is called substantial gainful activity. It’s exactly what we mentioned above in the section about eligibility. If you cannot perform enough substantial work as a result of your injuries, you may qualify.
What’s interesting about this is that there’s no mention of active military duty. So there are ways to perform active military duty while still receiving social security payouts. Additionally, certain wounded warriors may still be able to receive military pay as well as their social security benefits, no matter if it means active duty or not. The short answer is that it’s possible. Best bet is to talk to both your supervisor and the social security office.
How Do I Apply?
To apply for these benefits, you have a couple of options. You can always go to a social security office. Visiting your local library to use a computer could help you find an office. Additionally, the office phone numbers are usually in the phone book.
If you’re more inclined to apply online, you can visit www.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors