Yes, some veterans and service members are eligible for fast-track processing of claims for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the two programs through which Social Security provides benefits for people with disabilities.
This expedited processing is available to current and former military personnel who fall into at least one of two Social Security categories:
- They served on or after Oct. 1, 2001, and became disabled while on active duty. It doesn’t matter where the disability occurred — it need not be combat-related — but it must have happened during the period of active service.
100 percent P&T
- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) considers these veterans and service members to be fully disabled, meaning they have a 100 percent permanent and total (P&T) compensation rating.
Those are the conditions for fast-tracking. For those applications to be approved, veterans and service members also must:
- Meet the Social Security definition of disability, meaning they have an injury or medical condition that prevents them from doing substantial work and is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.
- Meet other eligibility criteria to qualify for SSDI or SSI. Those are related to their work history or income and financial assets.
In 2021, the estimated average SSDI payment is $1,277 a month for all recipients, not just veterans. The maximum individual SSI payment is $794 a month.
You can apply for SSDI online, by phone at 800-772-1213 or in person at a local Social Security office. In most cases, SSI claims must be filed by phone or in person, but you can apply online in limited circumstances.
[Editor’s note: Local Social Security offices are currently closed to walk-in visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Social Security services are available online and by phone. If you have a “dire need situation” regarding your benefits or need to update information attached to your Social Security number, such as your name or citizenship status, you may be able to schedule an in-person appointment. See Social Security’s coronavirus page or call your local office for more information.]
You do not need to request expedited processing specifically. Through electronic sharing of medical records with the VA and the Department of Defense, the SSA says it flags most claims from wounded warriors and veterans with 100 percent P&T ratings.
Still, the agency recommends that you notify it directly if you were injured while on active duty or meet the P&T threshold. You can do so in the “Remarks” section of the online application for disability benefits or when speaking to a Social Security representative by phone or in person. Be ready to provide the SSA with the VA letter confirming your P&T rating.
Once a claim has been marked for fast-tracking, it will be rushed through the process at the SSA field and state offices that make disability determinations. The length of time needed to get a decision can depend on other factors, including these:
- The nature of your disability
- How quickly SSA can gather medical records and other evidence of your condition
- Whether you need to get a medical exam to support your claim
Keep in mind
- A 100 percent P&T rating does not guarantee that Social Security will approve your disability claim. It just speeds your application through the process.
- Fast-track status stays in place throughout the application process. If your initial disability claim is denied, any appeals will be expedited.
- You can receive disability benefits from both Social Security and Veterans Affairs, but in some cases one may affect eligibility and payment amounts for the other.