By Brian Hewitt
Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
On this Thursday we honor our nation’s veterans for their service to America. There’s no better time than now to tell you about the many benefits and the wealth of information Social Security has available for veterans and military personnel.
In September, the agency published final rules about the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act. The HEART Act changes the way we treat some cash payments to members of the uniformed services and veterans under the Supplemental Security Income program. As Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue noted at the time, “This law allows the men and women of our armed forces, veterans, and their families to keep more of their military-related payments while also maintaining eligibility for valuable cash and healthcare benefits.”
The HEART Act does the following:
n Treats most cash military compensation as earned income for SSI purposes, which generally provides a higher benefit to the service member as a result of the SSI program’s more favorable consideration of earned income.
n Excludes certain state annuity payments to disabled, blind or aged veterans from countable income and resources used to determine SSI eligibility.
n Excludes any cash or in-kind payments provided by AmeriCorps State and National and AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps from countable income.
Social Security also makes it easy to get information about benefits for wounded warriors. The first place to go is our website designed specifically for our wounded veterans: www.socialsecurity
.gov/woundedwarriors. There you will find answers to a number of commonly-asked questions, as well as other useful information about disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income. Please pay special attention to the fact sheets available on that website, Disability Benefits for Wounded Warriors and Expediting Disability Applications for Wounded Warriors.
You will also find a “webinar” that explains the Social Security disability application process and expedited processing available to wounded warriors. This outreach program provides general information about Social Security disability benefits as well as topics unique to wounded warriors, and is a great way to orient yourself to disability benefits for veterans and active duty military.
It’s important to note that benefits available through Social Security are different than those from the Department of Veterans Affairs and require a separate application.
Military service members are covered for the same Social Security survivors, disability, and retirement benefits as everyone else. Military personnel have been covered under Social Security since 1957, and people who were in the service prior to that may be able to get special credit for some of their service.
To learn more about Social Security for current and former military service members, read Military Service and Social Security. You can find the publication online at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10017.html.