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Qualifying for SSDI or SSI benefits after a spinal cord injury

Whatever type of accident you were in, the result was that you suffered a spinal cord injury. Even if your doctors tell you that you will regain full sensation and control over your limbs, you are looking at a long recovery. It could take a year or more for you to achieve the best recovery possible. If your doctors told you that you will never achieve a full recovery, you will need to make permanent adjustments to your life, which could include not being able to work, at least temporarily.

Since you received your diagnosis, your financial situation has probably been high on your list of worries. You discovered that your condition could qualify you for benefits from the Social Security Administration, but you may not realize that obtaining those benefits is not as easy as it sounds.

Two different sources of benefits

The SSA offers benefits from two different sources, depending on your situation. The first is Social Security Disability Insurance. Other than having a qualifying condition, you must meet the following minimum criteria for these benefits:

  • You must expect your disability to last for at least 12 months.
  • You must have worked at least five of the last 10 years.
  • You must have paid FICA taxes during that time.
  • Your condition must keep you from obtaining gainful employment.
  • You cannot find employment that provides you with necessary "reasonable accommodations" under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The second source of benefits is through the SSA's Supplemental Security Income program. Again, you must have a qualifying condition and meet the following minimum criteria:

  • You must be at least 65 years old.
  • You must expect to have your disability for at least 12 months or have a terminal condition.
  • You must be partially or totally blind.
  • Your assets cannot be worth over $2,000 as a single person or $3,000 as a married person, but the SSA does not count all your assets, such as the home you live in and the vehicle you drive.

Unlike SSDI benefits, SSI benefits are not based on your work history. If you receive these benefits, you may also qualify for Medicaid and other government benefits. 

The evidence of your need

Once you determine which benefits you qualify for, you need to submit your application. A crucial part of this process is providing medical evidence of your disability. If you simply ask your doctor for a copy of your medical records, you could end up being one of the many individuals whose first attempt at receiving benefits comes back denied.

Knowing how to make requests of your doctors for the information you need to prove your need to the SSA is not an easy task without a great deal of experience and knowledge in what the SSA is looking for in your application. As you enter the appeals process, it would be wise to work with an experienced West Virginia attorney who routinely works with doctors to obtain the appropriate evidence needed to increase your odds of receiving the benefits you need.

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Shawn Taylor, PLLC
209 Capitol Street
Charleston, WV 25301

Phone: 304-932-4619
Fax: 304-414-6040
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Office Hours: 7:30 am to 4:00 pm Monday through Friday. Closed on all federal holidays.

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