The Social Security Disability and SSI disability system is federal, and therefore the rules apply equally in North Carolina, as in all other states.
One exception, of course, is that ten states no longer have the reconsideration appeal; North Carolina is not one of those states and still does have the reconsideration appeal, which is the first appeal available to a claimant after their disability application has been denied.
Unlike social assistance programs, disability benefit applications administered through the Social Security Administration are not held to any type of deadline, or time processing standard.
This means that your disability application, filed under SSD or SSI, or even under both programs in the form of a concurrent plan, may take five weeks to complete, or may take five months to complete.
Having said that, however, it should be said that there are factors that are somewhat within the control of a claimant and which may help determine how long it takes to get a disability award in North Carolina.
1. Filing an appeal versus filing a new claim – Some individuals who have been denied for disability will file a new claim. Typically, this is a mistake and the new claim will simply be denied again. In some cases, a person will actually file a new claim as much as ten to twenty times. As a disability examiner at NC DDS, I saw this routinely.
Why this happens is, sadly, anyone’s guess. The better course of action, of course, is to file an appeal instead of a new claim. It may be that Social Security does a poor job of explaining a person’s appeal rights to them, and what the advantages of appealing versus filing a new claim are.
The first appeal, the reconsideration, is highly likely to be denied, as was the case with the disability application.
However, getting denied on a reconsideration allows the claimant, or their disability representative, to file the next appeal, which is a request for a Social Security hearing. And it is at the hearing level that a claimant in North Carolina will have their best chance of being approved, provided that their case is both properly prepared and presented to the federal administrative law judge.
2. Missing appeal deadlines – Ideally, this should not happen at all. After all, the Social Security Administration allows a person who is been denied a window of two months to get the appropriate appeal submitted. Just the same, though, a sizable percentage of claimants end up missing the deadline for submitting a disability appeal.
When this happens, a person will be forced to start over with a new claim. And, as we have stated, this will basically amount to a somewhat useless expenditure of very valuable time, during which real progress could have been made on the case.
To avoid this situation, individuals who have received a notice of denial should immediately contact the Social Security office where they filed their claim. They should request that appeal forms be sent out to them. At that point, they may wish to consider finding representation if they are not already represented.
If they are represented, they will still want to contact the Social Security office once they receive their notice of denial.
They should also contact their disability representative to make sure that both parties have each received the notice of denial, thus ensuring that all parties are “on the same page” and fully updated with regard to the status of the case.