Social Security Disability Resource Center

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Winning disability benefits in North Carolina

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...

The processing of winning disability benefits in North Carolina is normally not an easy one.

First of all, it takes a long time to receive a decision on a case. How long? Three to four months on initial claims, on average, but sometimes as long as six months for the initial decision.

Secondly, the percentage of approved initial claims is low. Roughly 30-33 percent of cases are awarded, meaning 67-70 percent of all initial claims are typically denied in any given year.

Thirdly, there is the fact that winning disability benefits requires a claimant to prove that they have significant functional limitations.

Why is this an issue? One of the great stumbling blocks encountered in most cases--and this applies in every state, not simply North Carolina--is the fact that most medical records obtained from doctors give very little attention to the ways in which a person is affected by their condition, i.e. their functional limitations.

As we have stated, Social Security is not concerned with the diagnosis of a condition that you have. Instead Social Security, and it's evaluation process, is focused on how a condition affects your ability to engage in normal daily activities, and your ability to perform work activity.

If you have ever seen copies of your own medical records, then you have probably noticed that the records will indicate your diagnosed condition, any observations that have been made on your visits to the doctor, reports of any lab values or imaging studies (such as x-rays), and possibly a prognosis.

But, usually, there is very little mention of any trouble you might have in a functional area, such as trouble bending at the waist, trouble grasping small objects with your hands, reaching into overhead cabinets, lifting more than 25 or 50 pounds, etcetera.

Doctors, for the most part, simply do not record this information into their treatment notes. Unfortunately, this is the type of information that Social Security needs to approve a person who is hoping to win disability benefits.

So, with this in mind, what can you do to help ensure that your case satisfies the requirements for disability?

1. You may wish to review your own medical records.

And, in fact, if you obtain your medical records and submit them when you file your disability claim (which can sometimes result in a faster decision -- waiting on medical records is usually the single largest delay on a case), you can use this as an opportunity to see what your physician has indicated in their treatment notes.

In some cases, claimants have been able to learn early on in the process that their doctor was not supportive of their case, or that the information that was recorded in their medical records was simply not very detailed and helpful in winning benefits.

In such instances, a person filing for disability may find it wise to begin mentioning how their condition affects them when they visit their doctor, hoping the doctor will incorporate this information into their medical records. They may also choose to discuss with their doctor the fact that they are seeking disability benefits, in an attempt to ascertain whether the doctor will be supportive of their claim.

2. You may wish to get a statement from your physician in support of your case.

A statement from a claimant's can literally have the effect of winning a case. However, there are two things to remember.

First of all, when we say "statement", we do not mean a short handwritten note from a doctor. Very often, however, this is what a doctor will attempt to provide. Obviously, most physicians have an extremely limited understanding of how the federal disability benefits system works.

What is needed from the doctor is a detailed and objective statement that actually clarifies all the various ways in which the patient is limited from engaging in normal daily activities.

Usually, a statement in this format will be referred to as a medical source statement, or a residual functional capacity form.

On this type of form, among other things, the doctor will indicate the strength levels of the patient, how long they can sit, stand, or walk, as well as how much range of motion they possess in their limbs, and, additionally, any limitations they might have with regard to vision or hearing.

There are, of course, other areas of function that are addressed by a physician statement. Very often, this type of statement will simply be a multi-page form that asks the doctor questions and then supplies checkbox choices for the doctor.

A physician statement can be a powerful tool for winning a case. However, this brings us to the second point.

Unfortunately, contrary to the Social Security Administration's own guidelines for deciding cases, a statement from a physician will very often have little effect at the initial claim or reconsideration appeal level.

This is because decisions on SSD and SSI cases at the first two levels of the system are made by disability examiners. Disability examiners must answer to their own unit supervisors who are usually under pressure to keep the number of approvals down.

Therefore, despite the fact that social security regulations state that a qualified statement from a physician must be given consideration, very often at the first two levels of the system such a statement is practically ignored.

At the Social Security Disability hearing level, however, the medical statement, if it is supported by the information contained in the physician's medical records, will be given consideration and weight, potentially "controlling weight" on the case.

If your case gets to the disability hearing level in North Carolina, your representative will not only obtain your most recent medical record updates, but should also attempt to obtain at least one medical source statement from one of your treating physicians.

In fact, it can be argued that how disability judges view the physician statement may account for the wide divergence in the number of cases approved at the hearing level versus the number of cases approved at the first two levels of the system.

Which is exactly why the person who has been denied on the disability application, and then on the reconsideration appeal, should not give up, but should pursue their case to a hearing.

  • Social Security Disability Resource Center

  • Social Security Disability SSI Questions

  • Getting disability in North Carolina

  • Filing for NC disability benefits

    Applying for Disability in North Carolina - How to apply, qualify, and meet filing requirements

    Applying for NC disability benefits

    More about filing for disability benefits in North Carolina

    How to claim disability benefits in North Carolina

    What happens on a disability application in North Carolina?

    How long will it take to receive NC disability benefits if your application is approved?

    Basic questions about disability benefits in North Carolina

    How much can you receive in disability backpay in North Carolina?

    How far back do you get disability benefits in North Carolina?

    Can You Work and Collect Social Security Disability in North Carolina?

    How to Get the Status on Your Social Security Disability Claim in North Carolina

    How do I get help to win my disability claim in North Carolina?

    The disability process in North Carolina

    What condition or conditions qualifies for disability in North Carolina?

    How long does it take to get through the disability system in North Carolina?

    Is it hard to get disability benefits in North Carolina?

    What are my chances of being approved for disability benefits in North Carolina?

    How long does it take to receive North Carolina disability benefits after you are approved?

    Disability determination services in North Carolina

    Disability decisions in North Carolina

    How long does it take for the disability decision in North Carolina?

    How does the North Carolina Social Security Disability determination process work?

    Getting disability benefits in North Carolina

    Getting denied for disability in North Carolina and filing appeals

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    How to get on disability in North Carolina

    NC Disability requirements and qualifications

    Will I Qualify For Disability Benefits in North Carolina?

    What is the criteria for disability benefits in North Carolina?

    What are the disability qualifications in North Carolina?

    Proving the requirements for disability in North Carolina

    How do you meet the Disability qualifications in North Carolina?

    SSI and Social Security Disability requirements in North Carolina

    How do I Know If I Qualify For Disability in North Carolina?

    Winning Disability benefits in NC

    How do I win disability benefits in North Carolina?

    Improving your chances of getting disability in North Carolina

    How to improve the chances of winning a North Carolina disability hearing

    Will an attorney or representative help me win North Carolina disability benefits?

    Winning disability benefits in North Carolina

    Mental Disability benefits in NC

    Receiving disability for a mental condition in North Carolina

    How do you receive benefits for a mental disability in North Carolina?

    Getting approved for mental disability benefits in North Carolina

    Disability awards and award notices in North Carolina

    Getting a Social Security Disability award in North Carolina

    The Social Security Disability award notice process in North Carolina

    What affects how much time it takes to get a disability award in North Carolina?

    Disability representation in North Carolina

    Should I get a disability representative or lawyer in North Carolina?

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    Hiring a Qualified Disability Lawyer in North Carolina

    How do Disability Lawyers in North Carolina get paid their fees?

    Denied for disability in North Carolina, should I get an attorney or representative?

    Disability attorney fees in NC - paying your lawyer or representative

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    How much does the fee cost for a disability attorney in North Carolina?

    Do you pay your disability lawyer in North Carolina or does Social Security pay the fee?

    Will your North Carolina disability lawyer charge you upfront for taking your case?

    Will your NC disability attorney charge you for any expenses other than the main fee?

    NC disability hearings

    What kind of decision will you get at a disability hearing in North Carolina?

    NC disability hearing - how long for a decision?

    Do you have to go to a Social Security hearing in North Carolina to get approved for disability?

    The disability hearing in North Carolina- things to keep in mind

    How do you prepare for a disability hearing in North Carolina?