Social Security Disability in North Carolina Must be for a Severe Condition
Many, if not most, individuals who consider filing for Social Security Disability in North Carolina (SSD) or SSI probably wonder at first if their physical or mental condition is severe enough to qualify them for benefits.
Social Security, in an attempt to avoid subjective disability standards and to inject uniformity in disability decision-making across the 50 states, has formed its own definition of disability, and it is this definition that is applied by all disability examiners in deciding SSD/SSI claims.
Social Security considers an impairment to be disabling if:
1. It has lasted twelve months, or is expected to last for at least twelve months.
2. It prevents the claimant from participating in substantial gainful activity (SGA). The SGA is a dollar amount set by Social Security according to the annual wage/price index--if you earn, or if a disability examiner or judge thinks you could earn the monthly SGA amount, you will not qualify for disability in North Carolina.
In determining if an individual is disabled in NC or any other state, Social Security does not focus on the particular mental or physical condition at issue. There is no particular ailment that is a shoo-in when it comes to winning disability benefits. What is important to a disability examiner or judge is how the impairment affects a claimant's residual functional capacity, or the ability to perform daily living activities.
In order to assess both the severity of a claimant's impairment and how it restricts his or her functional capacity, disability examiners at NC Disability Determination Services (where decisions on claims for Social Security are made) will review both medical records and any evidence gathered from questionnaires completed by both the claimant and a third party (whom the claimant chooses during the initial disability interview). The questionnaires ask what, if any, activities the claimant can still do, such as mowing the lawn, driving a car, working, shopping for groceries, etc.
So how do you know if your condition is severe enough to qualify for disability in North Carolina? The answer is simple: If your medical impairment prevents you from earning a living (the SGA amount) for at least one year, you may be eligible for SSD/SSI benefits in North Carolina.
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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