Does Length of Military Service Impact SSDI Eligibility?

green plastic toy soldiers

Eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) depends on whether your current medical condition prevents you from working and how long you worked before becoming disabled.

Serving on active duty is considered gainful employment by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and can therefore be counted toward a current or former servicemember’s eligibility for SSDI. However, your military status at the time of becoming disabled has no bearing on whether you qualify for SSDI benefits.

Speaking with an experienced disability representative can help you to gain a better understanding of the relationship between time spent in the military and your eligibility for SSDI.

Proving a Disability

The first thing an SSDI applicant has to prove is that they meet the definition of disabled under Code of Federal Regulations §404.1505. According to this statute, a person is considered disabled if they are unable to participate in substantially gainful activity (i.e., work a full-time job).

Unlike the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the SSA does not require that an injury or illness arose during a person’s time on active duty. As long as you have proof of a diagnosis and vocational expert testimony stating that you are unable to work, you may qualify for SSDI regardless of the length of your military service.

How Can the Length of Military Service Impact Work History Eligibility?

The second qualifying factor for SSDI benefits involves a person’s work history. According to the SSA, you must have acquired a total of 40 work credits before the onset of a disability. You earn a credit by working for a period of three months. In addition, at least 20 of these credits must be from the past 10 years.

Fortunately, the SSA considers military service to a form of gainful employment. In other words, proving your time spent working for the US military can satisfy this requirement. Many veterans use a combination of military service and civilian jobs to meet the SSA’s work history requirements. One of our well-versed legal advocates can work with disabled veterans and individuals still serving on active duty to gather the necessary information and establish their eligibility for SSDI benefits.

The Length of Your Military Service May Impact Your SSDI Eligibility

A valid SSDI claim will satisfy two main requirements. The first concerns a person’s medical diagnosis and its impact on their ability to work. The SSA does not care whether an injury or illness began during your time in uniform.

Second, all parties seeking SSDI benefits must have a sufficient work history. In general, this must include at least 10 years as a full-time employee. Some or all of this requirement may be satisfied by time spent in the military. In this way, the length of your military service may bolster your claim for SSDI payments. A local hearing claims advocate can offer more information about the requirements for SSDI and help veterans explore how their time serving the country could make them eligible for SSDI.


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