Health & Disability Advocates





Active duty service members who are wounded in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) may need assistance to access various health care and benefits systems including, for example, the military hospital system, the Veteran’s Administration, and Civilian resources. Without knowing whether they will be allowed to return to active duty, they are in the midst of navigating the services offered through military hospitals, Medical and Physical Evaluation Boards, and Disabled Veteran Benefits Programs.   We are currently working primarily with the Illinois National Guard to assist the wounded soldiers and their families access available resources.

HDA has worked with Service members who are wounded while in service to our country.  We are interested in helping wounded service members know about all services available to them and their families.   The severity of injuries can impact what services they access. 
Likely to return to active duty: 
For example  they may have a wound that is likely to heal well and allow them to return to active duty. If that is the case, they will largely be served by the Department of Defense hospital system.  They may receive services through Wounded Warrior Transition Units if it is not yet clear how their wounds will heal.  
Transition to VA system but Injury is not severe:  
Others may have a wound that does not allow them to return to service but is not sever, such as a knee or back injury.  They may be able to receive a  small  VA service connected disability payment such as 10%- 20 %.  Since they are not severely injured they are not given priority for services at the VA and they may need help with employment services or other options for health insurance. Please see the Veterans page on our website for information on these services.
Severely Disabled Transition to VA system:
Accessing the VA: The social workers at the DOD hospital usually connect families to the  social worker at their local VA medical center.  We encourage families to become educated about services offered through the VA in general  and think carefully about their needs.
 How often  will their family member need to access the VA services?
 We often speak to disabled veterans who are unable to work because they live so far from the VA medical facility the travel  to  simply maintaining their health takes most of their  time.  Often times a family may live near a small VA medical facility that does not offer as many programs as a larger facility would.   Families should think carefully about whether they may want to move to be closer to the best VA services.
Applying for Disability Benefits:   
Veterans Administration: Applying for VA service connected disability payments is very important and most VA social workers have information about  local resources that will assist in this process. The disability rating through the VA will also impact the Veterans priority for services at VA medical centers. 
Social Security Administration:  Many veterans do not realize that they should apply for Social Security Disability Benefits.  It is possible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance payments as well as Service Connected Disability payments from the VA.  Remember to apply at SSA within the first year after the injury.  SSA can only go back 12 months from the date of application  so if a veteran were to wait 5 years after their injury to apply at SSA they will not be able to give them benefits back to the date they were injured.
Download our Disability Benefits Fact Sheet here
Disability Resources :    
Many Veterans with disabilities are on waiting lists to receive assistance with modifying their home because of their disability, such as installing a wheel chair ramp or for assistive technology.  Illinois has some wonderful programs that can also provide these services. The Illinois Assistive Technology  Program will even let you borrow equipment [wheelchair, amplified telephone etc..] to help you decide what device is right for you. We recommend that people  use this service prior to ordering a device through the VA.  This fact sheet has information on these and other resources