Veterans and SSDI


If you are a disabled veteran, you should be aware that you can actually be eligible for the Wounded Warrior program and receive Social Security disability benefits. Below, we will help you understand what you need to know in order to get you started applying for the Social Security benefits that you deserve. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has been administering benefits to US veterans since 1957, and continues to do so for thousands of veterans today. In fact, according to one source, over 25% of adults who currently receiving Social Security benefits are veterans.

How Do I Know If I Qualify for SSDI?

In order to earn enough “work credits” to be eligible for benefits, Social Security requires that you have worked for five out of the last ten years before applying. Work credits depend on the amount of time that you worked and served and the amount of money you were paid. Earning work credits in the armed forces will depend on the years that you served.

Apart from having worked to earn enough credits (from both your past military and civilian jobs), you must now be completely unable to work, being considered by the SSA as “unable to do substantial work because of your medical condition” and “your medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year or to result in death.” In other words, you must be 100% disabled.

It is important to remember that the SSA only cares about the nature of your disability, not how you became disabled. For example, they do not care if your own misconduct while serving in the military caused your disability. They also do not care about when or how long you served in the military.

How Does Military Pay Affect SSDI?

According to the SSA:

“Active duty status and receipt of military pay does not, in itself, necessarily prevent payment of Social Security disability benefits. Receipt of military payments should never stop you from applying for disability benefits from Social Security. If you are receiving treatment at a military medical facility and working in a designated therapy program or on limited duty, we will evaluate your work activity to determine your eligibility for benefits.”

What is the Difference Between SSDI and Veterans Disability Compensation (VDC)?

Even though both SSDI and VDC are offered by the federal government, they come from two completely separate federal programs. The manner in which they administer the benefits and the amount they administer are also different. According to a 2012 Congress CRS report, there are three major differences between SSDI and VDC offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs:

  • SSDI is an insurance that replaces a portion of your earnings that you have already received and paid into Social Security while VDC benefits are a compensation for the injury you sustained while in military service. Neither veterans nor active service members pay into the program.
  • SSDI offers a safety for those who cannot work while VDC offers tax-free cash benefits to you without considering your disability.
  • SSDI only compensates those who are 100% disabled, while VDC offers compensation for both partial and fully disabling injuries and illnesses. This means that the SSA requires that you be unable to do any time of work in order to be eligible, while the VA will allow you to work while still offering benefits.

Another difference between the two has to do with your military service itself. If you were  discharged dishonorably or for bad conduct, you are unable to receive VDC. On the contrary, the SSA does not ever take into account how you were discharged when determining whether you are eligible to receive benefits. Social Security benefits do not specifically relate to your military experience.

Photo courtesy of: Fort Rucker