If a military member becomes disabled, then they have many questions about what to do next. One option is to seek disability benefits through Veteran’s Affairs. Military members can also seek disability benefits from the Social Security Administration and can have their disability claims sent through an expedited process known as the Military Member Walking With a CaneWounded Warriors Program. This expedited process is available for military service members who became disabled while on active military duty on or after October 1, 2001. It does not matter where the disability occurred for a military service member to receive benefits.

We are pleased that the SSA has taken our nation’s military heroes into account. The Wounded Warriors program offers you something very rare: faster processing in a program that is known for denials and delays.

Disability as Defined by the Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration defines disability narrowly, requiring that:

  • The applicant must be unable to do substantial work due to existing medical conditions
  • The applicant’s medical condition must have lasted or is expected to last at least one year or result in death.

Social Security disability benefits are not available for partial or short-term disabilities.

Application Requirements for SSDI Benefits

Military service members may apply for SSDI benefits anytime after they become disabled, whether they are still in the military or have been discharged. Benefits can be sought even if the service member is currently receiving treatment or is still hospitalized. The documents needed to include with an SSDI application include:

  • Birth Certificate or proof of citizenship or legal residency
  • Form DD 214 if the service member has been discharged
  • Previous year’s W-2 or income tax return
  • Proof of military pay or workers’ compensation
  • Medical records

If the service member has children or a spouse, then their Social Security numbers must be included. Once an application is filed, then the claim is sent to a Disability Determination Services (DDS) office. This office will investigate the claim and determine whether disability benefits should be granted.

SSDI Benefits Available for Family Members

A service member may be able to secure SSDI benefits for a family member depending on the work of the service member. The family members who are eligible to receive benefits include:

  • A spouse, if the spouse is at least 62 years old
  • A spouse, if the spouse is caring for a child in common who is either under the age of 16 or has a disability
  • An unmarried child under the age of 18
  • An unmarried child over the age of 18 that has a disability that started before the child turned 22 years old

Certain situations allow a divorced spouse to receive benefits. A service member can receive disability benefits while remaining on active duty. It is the service member’s responsibility to update the SSA if there is a change in their:

  • Military Occupational Specialty code (MOS)
  • Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC)
  • Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC)

These changes can affect whether the service member can continue to receive SSDI benefits.

Medicare and TRICARE Insurance Coverage

Once a service member has received disability benefits for 24 months, they will be automatically enrolled to receive Medicare coverage. If a service member is entitled to Medicare Part A and Part B, then TRICARE is the primary coverage, and Medicare serves as the supplemental secondary coverage. A retired military service member who is entitled to Medicare Part A and Part B has Medicare as the primary coverage and TRICARE as the secondary supplemental coverage.

The Requirement to Report Work Activity

It is important to report to the Social Security Administration anytime you take a new job and start working. Make sure that you inform SSA when you start or stop work, and any changes to your job duties, work hours, or pay rate. Once the SSA has received notice that you are working, they will conduct a continuing disability review to determine if you are doing substantial work. Currently, if a disabled service member is earning over $1,350 monthly, then they are considered to be doing substantial work, which can affect disability benefits.

Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.


John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer