Social Security and Air Force retirement


Q: I was involuntarily retired from the Air Force because of an injury received while at work. It was a gradual process.

I was injured (torn ACL in my left leg) in 1998. I was then returned to work. The ACL repair wasn’t successful, so I underwent a second surgery in 2001. I started rehabilitation but did not complete it.

I was then moved into a supply position. I underwent a third surgery in 2003. I started rehabilitation and I completed it according to the rehabilitation specialist’s instruction. However, he (DOL) insisted that I pay for everything and assured me that he (DOL) would pay me back. I’ve never gotten paid back and the institutions that I learned from never got paid by DOL either. Therefore, they want their money, from me.

I had two more surgeries, one on each hand, in 2004.

Finally, they decided that the workplace physical requirements were more than I could perform and retired me.

I’ve tried to get Social Security, but because I have an education higher than high school (via my rehabilitation) I’m not eligible.

My question is, since I’ve been unemployed for more than four years and applied for more than 4,000 jobs, how do I get Social Security? My civil service retirement paperwork was accepted but I’m still on workers’ compensation and can’t get Social Security. Do you know of anything that might help me?

A: Go to and download a copy of the Social Security Administration’s pamphlet on disability retirement. It will tell you what conditions qualify for disability retirement and how to file for disability benefits. I could find nothing in that publication that would disqualify you solely on the basis of your educational level.


About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

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