Social Security works to help military with benefits
President 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.
We at Social Security are doing all we can to make sure members of the military, 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, regardless of where or how the injury occurred.
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 age 24, then 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 the person cannot work because of a physical or mental condition that is expected to last at least one year, then 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 that 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 - such as the Department of Veteran Affairs - does not mean that he or she will be automatically eligible for disability benefits from Social Security.
If you or someone you know is a wounded soldier, file for Social Security disability benefits as soon as possible.
For more information about the Social Security disability program or to apply online, visit our Web site at www.socialsecurity.gov. You can also call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
Iris Greene is manager of the Social Security office in Prescott.