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…
A disability lawyer or non-attorney disability representative in North Carolina is only paid if your case is won. This is because the fee for representing a disability claim is based on a percentage of whatever disability backpay you are eligible to receive under either the Social Security Disability or SSI disability program.
Therefore, if your disability case is not won, then there is no back pay and, thus, no fee to be paid to be the lawyer or nonattorney Representative. By the same token, though, if your case is won and you are only eligible for continuing monthly disability benefits, but not eligible to receive any back payments, the attorney or nonattorney representative handling your claim would also not be able to receive a fee.
The fact that the fee payment system is set up this way gives your lawyer or representative in North Carolina a very strong incentive to not only win your claim for you, but also to win the highest possible amount of back payment money for you.
This is done, of course, by proving the earliest possible onset date for your disability. How is this done? By analyzing your medical records to find specific evidence that proves your condition or conditions satisfies the Social Security Administration guidelines for receiving disability benefits as of a certain date.
In this sense a disability representative who handles a disability case is very similar in what they do to a disability examiner (I can speak authoritatively on this since I am a disability representative who is also a former disability examiner).
For those who are unaware, the examiner at NC DDS, otherwise known as North Carolina disability determination services, is the individual who actually reviews your claim and makes an approval or denial. The examiner is assigned to the case after your disability application is taken at a local Social Security field office.