Violent Crime and Qualifying for Disability Benefits
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of a violent crime?
Author: Attorney Lloyd Bemis
Every day in the United States someone is impacted by a violent crime. Some of the injuries an innocent victim might experience include gunshot wounds, knife wounds and brain injuries, as well as mental disorders resulting from the trauma. A victim’s injuries may heal in a matter of months or linger for years causing long-term disabilities; in the meantime, a victim may not be able to work and lose much needed income. If you are suffering from the effects of a violent crime you may qualify for disability benefits.
Qualifying for Disability for Violence Related Injuries
If you have been injured during a crime, whether or not you can qualify for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) will depend on the severity of your medical condition and if you meet Social Security’s basic eligibility requirements:
- You must have worked long enough and recently enough in a job that paid Social Security taxes;
- Your disability must last, or be expected to last, 12 months or result in death; and
- You must not be earning more than Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), which in 2022 is $1,350 per month for non-blind applicants and $2,260 for blind applicants.
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from injuries as result of violent crime. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
Social Security doesn’t care how you were hurt, but you will not be eligible if your injury occurred while you were committing a felony.
You may qualify, however, if you are hurt while someone else is committing a crime. Traumatic injuries result in a wide range of medical issues; damage to skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments can severely limit a person’s range of motion, strength and flexibility. Sometimes these impairments are not apparent until years after the initial injury occurs. Many people may recover enough to return to work in a period of weeks or a few months while others later develop physical and psychological problems that last for years.
A crime-related injury must be evaluated separately as a disability.
The Social Security Administration lists impairments that automatically qualify for SSDI in its Blue Book. In order to qualify for SSDI, an applicant’s injury or impairment must match or equal one of those listed impairments. As an example, gunshot wounds are not listed as an impairment in the Blue Book, but the serious physical and cognitive limitations resulting from gunshot wounds could be evaluated under many other listings such as Joint Dysfunction (Section 1.02), Spinal Disorders (Section 1.04), Neurological Disorders (Section 11.00), Soft Tissue Disorders (Section 1.08), or Mental Disorders (Section 12.00).
When you apply for SSDI you will be expected to provide documented medical evidence to Social Security that proves your condition is so severe you cannot work. This documentation should include:
- Records of medical treatment related to your medical condition, from the initial care you received (for example, at an emergency room), to ongoing care.
- Records of surgeries, physical examinations, imaging tests such as x-rays and MRIs
- Records of regular mental health treatments for anxiety, depression, PTSD.
- Statements and opinions from all medical providers.
- A Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form completed by your doctor which details your functional limitations in lifting, carrying, sitting, standing, walking, balancing, and how they impact your ability to perform your job.
A doctor should also note whether you are able to work around loud noises and whether certain work settings might trigger anxiety.
A mental RFC form completed by a psychiatrist or psychologist can greatly increase your chance for success. In this form, your doctor will be asked to give their opinion on your ability to:
- Maintain attention for long periods of time;
- Understand and remember instructions and carry them out;
- Interact appropriately with supervisors, coworkers and the public;
- Work together with others;
- Work a full workday without interruptions from psychological symptoms;
- Maintain reasonable attendance and punctuality. This is important! If you miss 20% of a workday or miss two or more days per month because of your symptoms, you may not be able to perform any type of gainful employment.
If your condition does not match a Blue Book listing, you may still be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you have another impairment; for example, high blood pressure or diabetes.
Applicants often have more than one illness or injury that prevents them from working full time. While one disorder may not meet Social Security’s requirements of an impairment as stated in its Blue Book, if you have multiple medical conditions, Social Security must consider how those health issues, combined together, limit your ability to hold a job and perform necessary daily tasks. Social Security will also conduct its own RFC to evaluate how your limitations affect your ability to work, taking into account whether or not you are able to drive, your age, and level of education.
The Texas Crime Victims’ Compensation Program
Applying for SSDI can be a long process.
Some victims with a crime-related injury may not be eligible and some may need help immediately. Every state, including the District of Columbia, offers assistance to victims of violent crime. The Texas Crime Victims’ Compensation Program was created to help crime victims and their immediate families with the financial costs of crime such as medical treatment, counseling, funerals and loss of income. The two main goals of this program are to encourage victim participation in apprehending and prosecuting criminals and to reimburse victims for certain costs related to crime.
Under this program, a victim is a person who was injured or died because of a crime, a person who came to the aid of a crime victim and was injured or died, or a first responder who was injured or died while responding.
An injury can be physical or mental, and the crime must meet the following criteria:
- The crime must occur in Texas to a U.S. resident; or the victim is a Texas resident and the crime occurred in a country not offering crime victims’ compensation.
- The victim did not participate in the crime, commit illegal activity at the time of the crime, or share responsibility for the crime due to their behavior.
- The crime must be reported to an appropriate law enforcement agency.
- The victim must cooperate with the law investigation.
- The victim must apply within three years from the date of the crime unless good cause is shown (for example, the age of the victim or the victim’s mental and physical capacity).
The following crimes or attempted crimes are covered by the program:
- Hit and Run
- Human Trafficking
- Family Violence
- Child Abuse
- Child Sexual Assault
- Elder Abuse
- Sexual Assault
Costs covered are limited to $50,000 total compensation, but may be further reduced by other sources used to cover crime-related costs, such as medical insurance and Medicaid/Medicare.
Crime Victims’ Compensation is the last source of payment and all other resources must pay before any payment by the program. Treatment must be necessary, reasonable and directly related to the crime.
Some of the medical costs covered include:
- Hospital and emergency room expenses
- Ambulance services
- Doctor’s expenses
- Nursing care
- Medical appliances such as wheelchairs
- Treatment by a psychologist or psychiatrist
Compensation may also be paid for loss of earnings when a victim must miss work for a crime-related disability period, to attend medical and mental health appointments, and to participate in criminal justice proceedings.
For more information on The Texas Crime Victim’s Compensation Program, see: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/crime-victims/crime-victims-compensation-program.
If you are suffering from an injury or illness, whether it is related to a crime or not, and you are no longer able to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Income.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.
The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- The Current Work Test. Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.
The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- Is your medical condition severe? Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
- Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments? The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
- Can you do the work you did before? SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
- Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.
More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
Try these links for further reading on this subject:
When Should I apply for Social Security Disability?
It helps to have a supportive doctor when you file for disability
What Information will I need to apply for SSDI?
Author: Attorney Lloyd Bemis has been practicing law for over 35 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Bemis obtained dual board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lloyd is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and has argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Mr. Bemis is a member of the Travis County Bar Association. He has been active in the American Association for Justice and is a past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Bemis and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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