It’s pretty clear that your injury is never going to get better. You can’t go back to your unit, and although you’re still receiving your military pay, it’s only a matter of time before you’re discharged completely. What is available if you can’t go back into service?

Service Members on Active Duty Can Still Get Social Security Disability

Many service members don’t realize that they are eligible for Social Security disability benefits even when they are listed as active duty if they are awaiting discharge for their condition. The Social Security Administration (SSA) knows that soldiers and servicemen often still receive full military pay when they are ill, injured, in therapy, or are receiving care in a military medical facility.

According to the SSA, a person is considered an active duty service member if he or she is:

  • On full-time duty in the any of the U.S. military branches—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard—or are on active duty for training purposes in any of these branches.
  • A student at a U.S. Military academy, such as West Point, the Naval Academy, or U.S. War College.
  • A student at a pre-deployment training facility.
  • A member of the Army or Air Force National Guard that has been ordered to active full-time duty by Presidential order (such as a declaration of war or national emergency).
  • A reservist who has been called into active duty, is completing annual or full-time training, or is attending a Military Service School.

Since it takes several months to a year to receive benefits, injured service members should apply for Social Security disability as soon as know they will be discharged and unable to perform any work activity. In fact, injured servicemen can receive faster processing of their claims than other applicants if their injuries occurred during active duty.

Can I Get an Expedited Benefits Decision?

If your injury occurred while you were on active duty, SSA will expedite its decision in your case under the exception for wounded warriors. If you are a military member who was disabled on or after October 1, 2001, you are considered a wounded warrior. NOTE: While SSA requires you to be on active duty when the injury occurred, your injury does not have to be related to your military service.

You should take care when describing your disability circumstances to SSA, especially if you are still working at the time of your application. Even if you work remotely or part-time, SSA may deny your benefits—even if the work that you do is temporary or does not earn you a substantial income. Our attorneys can help you prepare your application and obtain your medical records and help you present the strongest possible case to Social Security. Call us at (402) 933-5405 or email us at [email protected]  to have us explain your Social Security disability benefit options at no cost to you.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska
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