Many military members suffer a disability that makes working impossible. If you were in the military and are now disabled, you may be eligible for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. SSD benefits are separate from any military disability benefits you may receive, and a separate application is required to receive benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
While the SSA provides expedited processing of disability claims for veterans injured as a result of military service, you still need to qualify for the benefits program and prove your eligibility for SSD. The SSA has a high denial rate, so it is important to consult with a disability benefits lawyer who can help you make your claim to get the benefits you deserve.
Veterans’ Eligibility for SSD Benefits
If you were injured while serving in the military, you may qualify for benefits through one of two Social Security programs:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based program that requires claimants to have a low income and individual resources less than $2,000 ($3,000 for couples).
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program based on a work history that requires claimants to have worked and paid into the system for a certain length of time depending upon their age at the time of disability.
Active-duty status and receipt of military pay will not necessarily disqualify you for disability benefits. Those who are still receiving military payments, those who are undergoing treatment at a military medical facility, those who are working on limited duty, and those who are working in a designated therapy program can still apply for SSD benefits.
However, if you are working and engaged in a substantial gainful activity (defined as earning above a certain level of income), you may be precluded from recovering disability benefits. As of 2013, this is defined as earning at least $1,040 per month, or $1,740 if you are blind.
Claimants must also demonstrate that they are sufficiently disabled to qualify for SSA benefits. The SSA’s strict definition of “disabled” requires:
- The condition to be long-term, defined as lasting 12 months, expected to last 12 months or expected to be fatal.
- The condition to render the claimant unable to work as a result of substantial impairment.
- The condition to be found in the Blue Book listing of impairments (a list of serious medical problems) or the condition considered to be medically equivalent to one listed. The claimant also must exhibit the symptoms for that condition that the Blue Book requires.
In certain cases, if were disabled but your health condition has improved, you may receive benefits for a closed period of disability. This essentially means that you can obtain benefits for a limited duration of time during which your application was filed and during which time you meet the SSA’s definition of disabled.
Wounded warriors can apply for benefits at any time, including while still serving in the military, after discharge, while hospitalized, while undergoing outpatient treatment in either a civilian or military facility or while in a rehabilitation program.
Applicants need to provide proof of work history, income information, and medical records. If you have been discharged from military service, you will also need to submit Form DD 214. Proving that you are disabled can be difficult, and you will need to have comprehensive medical records that show just how severely you are impaired by your condition.
Military members who apply for disability benefits can have their claims reviewed through an expedited process provided they were injured while on active military duty on or after Oct. 1, 2001. Expedited processing is available regardless of where the disability happened.
Legal Help for Veterans Applying for SSD Benefits in South Carolina
More than half of all claims for SSD benefits are initially denied, so it is important that you get legal help in making your benefits claim if you were wounded while serving in the military.
An experienced disability lawyer can help you to explore all of the benefits programs that may be available to wounded warriors, including veteran’s disability benefits and SSD income. An attorney can also help you to understand how the different programs affect each other and what your best options are for maximizing the income you receive.
Contact an experienced SSD lawyer at Land Parker & Welch, P.A., today for help. Call (803) 435-8894 or use our online contact form for a free consultation.