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Government fast tracks military Social Security Disability applications

Unfortunately, U.S. government agencies responsible for determining eligibility for benefits for active and retired service members have a reputation for slow processing of applications. However, for those military members who are disabled, the Social Security Administration, also called SSA, provides an expedited application process for Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI.

Even if military benefits are not yet worked out, it may be worthwhile to pursue an SSDI claim simultaneously because of the heightened service available to service members who became disabled while on active duty on or after October 1, 2001.

Expedited processing

The expedited application process kicks in no matter where in the world the disability was suffered. Many of the commonly received injuries in the current and recent wars like brain injuries, amputations and post-traumatic stress disorder may qualify the victim for SSDI.

Information on the expedited processing of military applications for Social Security Disability is online at the Wounded Warrior website.

It is very important to notify the SSA upon applying that it is a military service member's application so it is flagged for fast-tracked processing.

Complicated eligibility questions

While the interplay between military and Social Security benefits can be complex, some service members may be eligible for both types. It may not matter that a service member is on active duty, doing some work or receiving military benefits; he or she still may be eligible for SSDI.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and the various branches of military service provide different types of government health and disability benefits to service members and veterans. Any active or retired service member should inquire with those agencies to be sure he or she is receiving all benefits to which he or she is entitled, but a service member or veteran who is disabled from working and not yet old enough to receive Social Security Retirement Benefits may also be eligible for SSDI.

What is SSDI?

SSDI is public disability insurance that we all pay into through our regular Social Security payroll deductions. Eligibility depends on having worked long enough and recently enough to comply with federal regulations as well as meeting the official definition of "disability."

To be disabled for purposes of SSDI, the person must have a physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments that is expected to prevent him or her from engaging in substantially gainful work for at least one year or result in death.

Health care

After receiving SSDI for 24 months, recipients are eligible automatically for Medicare, the federal health insurance program. Medicare and TRICARE may both be available a particular military member and may provide complimentary benefits. TRICARE is the U.S. military's health insurance coverage program for active and retired servicemembers and their families.

Seek legal advice

Any service member, active, inactive or retired, who is disabled should talk to an attorney with experience in and knowledge about SSDI eligibility and the application process for wounded warriors. A Social Security Disability lawyer can assist with applications as well as appeals, including helping the service member develop the medical record in his or her case.

In addition, a skilled attorney can explain the complex interplay between military- and Social Security-based benefits.

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