Note: The SSDI, SSI disability system is federal and nationally standardized, though there are state differences in approval rates, wait times, the number of appeals available–as of the time of this writing–and even the name given to the stage disability agency (DDS, or the Bureau or Division of Disability Determination). Now, to answer the question…
If you qualify for disability benefits, Social Security will send you a formal award notice that tells you the amount of your monthly disability benefits and when you might expect your first payment.
If you are approved in North Carolina by an administrative law judge, or ALJ, at a hearing, you will receive a notice of decision, followed by a notice of award.
How do I qualify?
Social Security has two methods to medically qualify you for Social Security (SSDI) and/ or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability. If you have not been able to work because of a physical or mental impairment for twelve months, or you expect that you will be unable to work for twelve months or more, you should file a disability application with Social Security. Once you file your disability application, it is sent to the North Carolina disability processing agency also known as Disability Determination Services (NC DDS) for a disability determination.
Disability examiners at DDS use a Social Security Disability handbook (more commonly known as the blue book) that contains impairment listings for each body system to make their disability determination. The blue book lists various conditions and the criteria needed to satisfy the severity requirements for receiving disability benefits. If your physical or mental impairment meets or equals the criteria of an impairment listing, you will be medically approved for disability benefits.
Most disability applicants, even if they are unable to perform substantial work activity, still do not meet the specific requirements of an impairment listing. If your disabling condition does not meet an impairment listing, Social Security has provided another way for you to qualify for disability benefits.
The second method used by Social Security to qualify disability applicants for disability benefits is the medical vocational allowance. When making a vocational allowance determination, the disability examiner considers your age, education, medical conditions, work history, and your residual functional capability (what you can do in spite of your disabling condition).
In making this type of decision, they must determine if you are able to do any of the work you have performed in the past fifteen years, considering your functional limitations. If you are not able to do any of those jobs, the disability examiner must then consider if you are able to do any other kind of work. If they determine you are not able to do any other kind of work, you will win your disability benefits through a medical vocational allowance.
If you medically qualify for disability, DDS will send your disability claim back to your local Social Security office to resolve whatever non-medical issues apply to your case (for example, if you are awarded SSI, they will need to be certain that you do not have assets in excess of the $2000 limit for SSI).
If you are approved for SSI disability, this will mean an “end line interview” to verify income and resource; if you meet these limits you are qualified for SSI disability.
If you are qualified for Social Security Disability benefits, your disability claim is generally adjudicated as soon as it is received in your local office unless there are capability issues involved (the disability examiner or physician felt you needed help managing your disability benefits) or something like workman’s compensation. When there are workman’s compensation benefits or settlements involved, Social Security offsets disability benefits. If either of these issues arises, however, they are usually resolved quickly.