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More New Jersey vets than ever filing for disability benefits

Disabled New Jersey military veterans are eligible to apply for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as well as the Social Security Administration. In fact, veterans who became disabled while on active duty on or after Oct. 1, 2001, are potentially eligible for expedited processing of their Social Security disability applications.

Veterans from America's most recent wars are applying for disability benefits at rates higher than any other group of veterans in U.S. history. Approximately 45 percent of all veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are in the process of requesting benefits for service-related injuries and disorders.

The most recent applicants claim 11 to 14 ailments in their applications. On average, since the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, veterans seeking compensation for disability have been claiming eight to nine disorders. To compare -- Vietnam veterans on disability currently receive compensation, on average, for three ailments or less and veterans of the Korean War and World War II, only two.

The new veterans seeking disability benefits present different issues than in the past. More veterans than ever are women. Some women veterans seek benefits based on PTSD resulting from sexual trauma they suffered in the military. Also, veterans in these recent wars suffer fewer life-ending injuries because improved body armor and battlefield medicine permit them to survive assaults that were fatal in the past. In the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, more than 95 percent of injured troops have survived.

High numbers of deployments are also cited as a cause of the increase in disability claims.

These figures mean that our most recent veterans consider themselves sicker as a result of their military service than any veterans in history.

The SSA's criteria for granting disability benefits are stringent. A New Jersey veteran seeking Social Security disability insurance must suffer from a medical condition or conditions lasting at least one year, or that is expected to result in death. The medical condition must also prevent the veteran from working.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans Filing For Disability Benefits At Historic Rate," Marilynn Marchione, May 27, 2012

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