While the Social Security Administration (SSA) has strict rules governing who is and is not eligible for disability, it does allow current and former members of the military to collect benefits for past periods of disability. In most cases, the service member was injured, underwent a long period of time in a hospital or rehabilitation program, and was then readmitted into active duty or discharged when the injury healed. This is called a closed period of disability.

In order to collect payment for a closed period of disability, you must:

  • Have suffered an injury that left you unable to work for at least 12 months.
  • Be able to provide detailed medical proof of injury, diagnosis, and treatments.
  • Be found no longer disabled by the time your disability decision is made.
  • Apply for benefits within 14 months after your condition was no longer considered disabling.

How Long Will I Have to Wait for a Decision in my Case?

It can take anywhere from a few months to several years for a benefit case to be approved, but if you were injured while serving in a branch of the U.S. military, your disability application may qualify for a faster processing time. You will have to inform the SSA that your medical condition began while on active duty, and provide medical proof—including dates, diagnoses, and treatment—that your disability began while you were in service. Your application will then be marked as a Military Casualty/Wounded Warrior (MC/WW) file, ensuring expedited processing through all of the stages of the disability decision process.

How Much Can I Get?

There are many factors that can affect the amount of your disability benefits. Firstly, you will not be paid for the first five months after your disability began, as there is a mandatory five-month waiting period before you can receive your first payment. Also, the official start date of your benefits can affect the amount of your payments, since you can receive up to a year of retroactive benefits if your injury began a long time before you filed your application. To find out how much you could be owed in past benefits, email us today at [email protected] or fill out the quick contact form on this page.


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