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Social Security Column


By Guest Columnist Michael J. Astrue

Commissioner of Social Security

With Memorial Day approaching, I think it’s important to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. We at Social Security honor the heroism and courage of our military service members and mourn for those who have given their lives in defense of freedom.

It is also important to recognize those service members who are still with us, especially those who have recently been wounded.

That’s why I’d like to take this opportunity to remind readers that military service members receive expedited processing of their disability applications from Social Security. In fact, under an agreement initiated by Social Security, the Department of Defense now transmits information to us that allows us to quickly identify military personnel injured in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

The expedited process is available for any military service members who become disabled during active duty on or after October 1, 2001, regardless of where the disability occurs.

Depending on the situation, some family members of military personnel also may be able to receive benefits, including dependent children and spouses.

If you, or someone you know, were wounded while on active duty in the military, find out more about what Social Security can do for you by visiting our website designed specifically for you: 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 (SSI). Please pay special attention to the fact sheets available on that website titled Disability Benefits for Wounded Warriors and Expediting Disability Applications for Wounded Warriors.

You’ll also find links to useful VA websites, such as the “Seamless Transition Home” link, and the “Veterans ONline APPlication” website.

This Memorial Day, join me as I honor those who gave their lives for our nation, and salute those who served as well as those who continue to serve.

To learn more about what Social Security is doing to serve wounded warriors, visit For the families of service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice, Social Security survivors benefits may be payable. To learn more about eligibility for survivors benefits, visit

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May 21, 2008
Dear Proud American,
Memorial Day is a special time for all of us to remember that America enjoys freedom today because of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen and Marines who have sacrificed for the defense of our nation.
As part of our mission, Freedom Alliance supports our Armed Forces and honors their service and sacrifice and that of their families, including the children they have left behind. 
Our Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund honors servicemen and women, who have sacrificed life or limb in defense of our country, by providing educational scholarships for their children.
One of our scholarship recipients is Kristen Mancini, who will be a senior this fall at The American University in Washington, D.C.  Kristen’s father, Sergeant First Class Curtis Mancini, was a U.S. Army reservist who volunteered for active duty following the terrorist attacks of September 11 and served both in Afghanistan and Iraq.
 Sadly, Kristen’s Dad was killed in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.  Kristen was 16 when she lost her father.  She remembers him fondly: “My father meant the world to me.  He talked with me about the values of loyalty, honor, respect, love, honesty; and, above all, freedom.  Even though he is gone, his lessons still live on.  I will try my hardest to make my father proud.  He was my hero.”
We can not bring Kristen’s father back to her, but the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund is making her father’s dream of a college education for her, come true.
Providing scholarships to the children of our heroes is our way of honoring their service and sacrifice. Will you help us in this cause with a special Memorial Day contribution to the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund?  Please GO HERE to make your most generous, tax-deductible gift to the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund, a “Living Memorial to America’s military heroes." 
Through the generosity of many patriotic Americans, the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund has awarded more than $1.7 million in scholarships to hundreds of young Americans during the last several years.   We already have received a record number of scholarship applications for the 2008-2009 academic year. These are in addition to the students who are already on scholarship and who may qualify for a renewal to continue their studies.
The need for our Scholarship Fund is ever-increasing.   More than 4,500 American servicemen and women have been killed in Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, leaving behind thousands of young children who deserve our help. 
With your special Memorial Day gift to the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund, these children will not only attain a college education, but they’ll know that their parents are heroes – not because of the way they died, but because of the way they lived.  Please GO HERE to make your gift now.
I also invite you to join me in honoring our brave defenders of freedom this Memorial Day by supporting the Freedom Alliance Support Our Troops program. This is a year-round outreach which honors members of our Armed Forces - those who have been wounded in combat and are recuperating at military hospitals throughout the United States - as well as those currently serving on the frontlines.
The Freedom Alliance Support Our Troops program regularly receives requests to help wounded troops who are recuperating in a hospital.
Recently, the mother of one of our injured heroes wrote to us:
“Dear Freedom Alliance, Thank you so much for your prayers and generosity for my son, Dandy (Alex).  He has been working very hard to get well and I know with the kindness and support of organizations such as yours that someday soon he will be walking again. Thank you for your work and thoughtfulness.  God Bless You All.”
Freedom Alliance has assisted hundreds of combat-wounded military heroes and their families.
Earlier this week, Freedom Alliance provided a grant to a wounded soldier, Private Gary who is currently recuperating at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, to fly home to visit with his family and hometown friends for the Memorial Day weekend.   Private Gary was hit multiple times with an IED and now suffers from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). 
Please GO HERE to make your most generous, Memorial Day gift to the Freedom Alliance Support Our Troops program.  Your support NOW, will enable us to continue providing grants to our wounded heroes, and also provide support to our troops on the front lines of the War on Terror.  Freedom Alliance continues to send care package shipments - 50 shipments totaling more than 1,000 pounds have been sent so far this year - including thousands of cards and letters of appreciation to those risking their lives on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So I come to you, with an urgent appeal to open your heart with your most generous contribution for Freedom Alliance’s Support Our Troops program.
     Having made numerous trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, I can tell you how much this means to these courageous men and women who are so far away from home and their families.
This year we have hosted 15 Troop Appreciation Dinners and Luncheons for servicemen and women and their families, like the wounded Army veteran pictured here. The events have been held in 12 different states and many more dinners are planned for this year. These dinners and luncheons afford an opportunity to thank them for their service and sacrifice for our country and give them an enjoyable time out with their friends, families and comrades.
Please GO HERE to make your most generous, tax-deductible and special Memorial Day gift to the Freedom Alliance Support Our Troops program.
Will you please join with me and Freedom Alliance to pay tribute to our front-line warriors and their families? May we count on you, as together we honor them and thank them for the sacrifices they have made for our country?
Please click here to make your most generous tax-deductible contribution to Freedom Alliance today.
Semper Fidelis,
LtCol Oliver L. North, USMC (Ret.)
     Founder and Honorary Chairman

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