Can Active-Duty Military Personnel Apply for Social Security Benefits?

soldiers at attention and saluting
Apr 26, 2021 | Sara Khaki

Many active-duty military personnel wonder whether they can apply for and receive Social Security disability benefits. Normally, a person only qualifies for disability benefits if they are unable to maintain a full-time job. However, it can be difficult to obtain a discharge from active duty, even if an illness or injury occurs during service.

As a result, it may be possible to obtain Social Security benefits while still on active duty. Reaching out to a Social Security disability representative can help you get the answers you’re looking for.

Active Duty vs Gainful Employment

Obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) requires proof that someone is unable to work a full-time job as a result of a diagnosed illness or injury. Specifically, the Code of Federal Regulations §404.1505 defines a disabling condition as one that prevents a person from performing substantially gainful activity. Many servicemembers incorrectly assume that being on active duty means they do not meet this standard.

However, being on active duty is not the same as being deployed. People on active duty may be experiencing a new medical condition connected to their military service or suffering from a non-service-related injury or illness. While the military may keep them on active duty while they wait for a potential improvement, this condition may prevent their deployment.

Explaining Military Status when Seeking Social Security Benefits

All applications for SSDI must include information about how a medical condition prevents a person from working. This can be proven by attaching medical records to an application as well as including information from vocational experts that indicate a diminished ability to work full-time.

In many situations, paperwork from the military can support a claim for Social Security disability benefits. If you recently received a change to your MOS, AFSC, or NEC, this can help indicate how a medical diagnosis has changed your role in the military. Furthermore, a military doctor’s finding that a condition prevents deployment can be powerful evidence of a disabling condition. In short, a combination of doctor notes and military documentation can effectively prove that your role as an active-duty member of the military does not mean you are able to work.

Obtaining Social Security Disability Benefits while on Active Duty

People who are still on active duty may believe they are ineligible for Social Security disability benefits. While being on active duty means that the military can call you to a job at any time, not every active-duty military servicemember is on deployment. In fact, the military can keep servicemembers suffering from illness or injuries on active-duty roles without ever deploying them.

In such cases, active-duty military personnel can apply and qualify for Social Security benefits. If an illness or injury prevents you from working and has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year, you may receive disability compensation from the Social Security Administration. Contact a member of our team today to learn more about seeking these payments while on active duty.


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