Expedited SSD claim reviews and decisions available to wounded warriors

Social Security offers expedited claim decisions for veterans who were wounded on active duty or have a VA compensation rating of 100 percent P&T.

It’s not uncommon for veterans to return from service with serious and even disabling injuries. A report from the Department of Veterans Affairs indicates that over 3.8 million veterans received VA disability compensation in the 2013 fiscal year. In addition to qualifying for VA benefits, some veterans in Knoxville may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Social Security even offers an expedited claim process to help disabled veterans secure benefits sooner.

Eligibility criteria

Veterans who were injured while on active duty on or after Oct. 1, 2001, qualify for quicker processing. Social Security does not consider where or how the disabling injury occurred, as long as it happened during active duty. Social Security marks these claims as Military Casualty/Wounded Warrior files and automatically expedites processing.

Veterans with VA disability compensation ratings of 100% permanent and total (P&T) also are eligible for for faster claim evaluations. However, these veterans are not guaranteed SSD benefits based on their compensation ratings. Social Security and the VA use distinct criteria to evaluate disability. Even veterans with 100% P&T ratings may fail to qualify for benefits under Social Security’s strict standards.

Defining ‘disabled’

Social Security uses three criteria to evaluate whether a person is considered disabled. People claiming SSD benefits must meet the following requirements:

  • The person must suffer from a condition that is expected to persist longer than a year or prove fatal. Fully debilitating but short-term conditions are not eligible for SSD benefits.
  • The person must not be able to engage in any work that he or she performed in the past. Social Security considers a person’s recent work history, with exceptions for certain forms of temporary employment.
  • The person must not be reasonably capable of pursuing a new type of work. Social Security may weigh a person’s age, education and job skills to determine whether this is the case.

Social Security also evaluates other criteria during the SSDI process. Claimants must have an adequate earnings record. People with low lifetime earnings or diminished earnings in recent years may not qualify as insured. Claimants can’t engage in “substantial gainful activity,” which is defined in 2015 as work with monthly income over $1,090. Veterans who do not meet these criteria cannot receive benefits, even if they qualify on a medical basis.

Seeking benefits

Navigating an SSD claim can be challenging, given Social Security’s strict requirements and evidentiary standards. People pursuing SSD benefits or even simultaneous SSD and VA claims may want to consider working with an attorney. An SSD attorney may be able to offer advice on properly documenting these claims to improve the likelihood of approval.

Keywords: Social Security, disability, benefits, veterans