Many individuals who are disabled but still in the military wonder if they can collect Social Security Disability benefits while in the military. The truth is that there is no law that prevents someone who is on active duty from applying for Social Security Disability benefits.
Whether or not you will actually receive the benefits you are applying for is another story.
Chances are if you qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) then you are no longer physically qualified to serve in the military. With that being said, active duty status and military pay does not necessarily prevent you from qualifying for Social Security Disability.
Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits
When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, the SSA will take your work activity into consideration. If it is determined that you are indeed disabled then you can receive benefits while in the military.
If, however, your work activity in the military shows that you are not disabled by SSA standards, then you will not qualify for SSDI or SSI payments.
The bottom line is that you are not allowed to receive disability benefits from the SSA if you are engaging in substantial work activity. It is not the amount of pay you receive that determines whether or not you can receive SSDI – it is the actual work activity that you are capable of performing.
If you apply for Social Security Disability benefits while on active duty and receiving pay from the military, the SSA will evaluate your work activity. That activity is what determines your eligibility for SSDI benefits.
Those who are limited duty due to a disability or are working in a designated therapy program should definitely apply for Social Security Disability benefits.
If you are awarded Social Security Disability benefits while you are on active duty, there are circumstances in which you must notify the SSA right away.
If there is a change in your Military Occupational Specialty code, Air Force Specialty codes or Navy Enlisted Classification then you need to contact the SSA right away as this may affect your eligibility for benefits.
Qualifying for VA and SSDI Benefits at the Same Time
It is also important to note that you can receive disability benefits from the VA as well as the SSA. While the amount you receive from one may affect the amount you receive from the other, it is possible to receive both VA disability benefits and SSDI benefits.
Chances are, however, that if you are on active duty and are receiving military pay or you are receiving VA disability benefits, your income level will disqualify you from receiving SSI benefits even if it does not prevent you from collecting SSDI benefits from the SSA.
Differences Between VA and SSDI
If you are disabled veteran, you may qualify for both Veterans Administration (VA) disability benefits and Social Security Disability benefits. While both are programs overseen by government entities, they are very different programs with different requirements. Both these disability programs require detailed medical records and supporting documentation that indicates the severity of the condition and how it affects one’s ability to work and perform routine daily tasks.
The medical guide, which is called the Blue Book, has the medical criteria that must be met for a claimant to be approved for disability benefits. The medical guide has sections that cover the different body systems. For each body system there are listings of medical conditions that could be disabling. For each listing there are specific criteria that must be met to have a claim approved. You will need to
provide medical documentation that confirms you meet those criteria.
The VA only awards disability benefits for service-related disabilities. You do not have to be fully and completely disabled to receive VA disability. Instead, you will be given a rating for your disability. You can receive compensation with a rating of as low as 10 percent. Of course, the higher the disability rating the more the compensation. A rating of 50 percent will receive more compensation than a rating of 10 percent.
Social Security Disability doesn’t give a compensability rating. Instead, you must be 100 percent disabled and you must have a condition that is expected to last at least a year or end in death. All your medical conditions, including service-connected conditions are taken into consideration. You could be eligible for VA disability benefits with a compensability rating of 10 percent, but if your condition is not considered fully disabling per SSA guidelines, you will not qualify for SSDI.
You could be approved for VA benefits and not be approved for SSDI. You could be approved for SSDI, but not be approved for VA benefits. The nature and severity of your condition comes into play. As an example, you may only have a 10 percent compensability rating with the VA for your service-related back injury, but you may be approved for SSDI because of a heart problem that is completely disabling.
Medical records are essential to the success of your claim, so be sure to double check your list and make sure that you have included all your medical providers.
Medical Records Needed To Qualify
If you are unable to work because of a medical condition that is service connected, you will want to qualify for VA disability as well as for Social Security Disability. Both programs have very stringent applicant requirements. You must complete the application in detail and provide supporting documentation for your claim. You should prepare a detailed list of your medical providers, including the names and contact details as well as the dates of service.
Your complete medical records will need to be provided. You will need to provide all test results, including x-rays, MRIs, CT-scans, lab work, neurological tests, and any other tests that help confirm the diagnosis and the severity of your condition and how it limits or restricts you. Detailed physician notes and exam records are also a necessity to help you prove that you are unable to work because of the
medical conditions that you suffer.
Having the support of your physician is essential to the success of your disability claim. Talk with your physician and ask him if he or she believes that you would qualify for disability benefits. If your physician writes a note that that indicates he or she believes you are disabled, that could prove beneficial to your claim’s success. Be sure to detail the severity of your symptoms and how your ability to work is affected.
If your supporting medical documentation confirms the diagnosis and shows that your abilities to work are restricted, your claim can meet the medical criteria to be approved.
Make sure to truthfully and accurately detail how you are limited or restricted by your medical conditions. If your treatment has debilitating side effects, make note of that as well.
Expanded Benefits Available For Some Veterans
If you are considered a Wounded Warrior, you can have your Social Security Disability claim handled more quickly. To be declared a wounded warrior, you must have a combined disability rating of 80 percent to 100 percent with a single physical disability rating of 30 percent or more for injuries that are combat-related, such as severe burns or blindness or loss of vision. You will need to indicate that you are a wounded warrior on your Social Security Disability application, so your application will be processed more quickly.
If you are a veteran who became disabled after October 1, 2001, while on active duty. Regardless of your location, you must indicate on your application that your disability occurred while you were on active military duty. You can also have your Social Security Disability claim expedited if you have a 100 percent P&T rating from the VA.
The more documentation that you can provide, the more helpful it will be to your disability claim. A disability attorney will be able to help you with your claim and get all the documentation in order. Your lawyer will gather all your supporting documentation and medical records to ensure that your claim is
on the right track.
Your attorney will know which supporting evidence that your claim needs to be approved. Your attorney will review the medical records and documentation to see if your condition can meet the medical criteria to be approved.
Monthly disability benefits can help you cover your basic living expenses as well as your medical care. Most claims are denied because of a lack of hard medical evidence. It can take several months to have a claim approved, but a disability lawyer will be able to help you get your claim on track and ensure that your paperwork is filled out properly and completely.
Consult with a Social Security Lawyer
If you have a disability that will force you to be out of work for at least 12 months, you may be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. If approved, you can use your benefits on medical related and basic day to day needs.
A Social Security disability lawyer will be able to make sure all of your medical records and documents are in order to give you the best chance of winning your case.