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Getting 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...

An application for disability in North Carolina will generally be decided within 3 to 4 months. Social Security actually has a processing goal of delivering decisions within that 90 to 120 day timeframe.

In some cases, however, a decision on an application may take longer, sometimes as long as six months, or even in a limited number of cases up to a year.

Rest assured, though, this is not the norm. When a case takes this long, this is because there are usually some extenuating circumstances. For example, when a case has to be deferred because an individual has suffered a heart attack, stroke, or has had recent surgery, and the residual effects have to be evaluated through the more recent medical evidence.

As a former disability examiner, I can recall one specific case in which the claim was delayed for several months because the individual filed on the basis of visual deficits. The reason for the long delay was that the claimant had several scheduled eye surgeries, which meant that the case had to be continually deferred in order to assess whether or not, post-recuperation, the claimant's vision had improved, or even gotten worse, as a result of one of the surgeries.

Having said that, however, there are some cases in which the process has dragged on for months simply because the individual repeatedly failed to keep appointments for consultative medical examinations, or failed to provide social security with information that was needed to process the claim. In such instances, getting disability benefits in North carolina becomes unnecesarrily more difficult.

Without a doubt, you do not want your case to fall into one of these categories. This type of situation could certainly be avoided by simply "staying on top of" the status of your claim, and by responding to any requests for information that you receive, either in the form of correspondence or messages that have been left for you by a disability examiner working on your case.

To be eligible for disability benefits in North Carolina, under either the Social Security Disability or SSI disability program (or both programs if your claim is concurrent, meaning that it is taken in both programs --this is actually very common and a large percentage of claims are concurrent) you must meet the following conditions:

A. You must have at least one severe condition.

The condition can be physical or mental. On most claims, a person will list several conditions, sometimes of both a physical and mental nature. For example, depression and fibromyalgia.

In fact, listing several conditions can often assist a claim in being approved since the cumulative functional limitations that a person has as a result of their conditions will contribute to the determination that they can no longer engage in work activity.

What does Social Security mean by severe? Simply that the condition is not nonsevere. There are cases that are turned down due to an NSI, or nonsevere impairment. Sometimes, what is nonsevere is a matter of subjective argument.

In nearly all cases, a disability examiner or an administrative law judge will be able to conclude that something as simple as a basic strain or a minor laceration will constitute a nonsevere impairment. If this is the type of impairment that a claimant lists on their disability report form when they apply, the claim will certainly be denied.

However, if a person lists headaches or stomach problems when they file for disability, the claim will be investigated. When a person references "headaches", they may actually mean cluster headaches, migraines, or some type of other neurological problem that results in them experiencing headaches. "Stomach problems" may refer to something such as inflammatory bowel disease, Irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn's disease, etc.

For this reason, a person applying for NC disability benefits should probably not concern themselves over the question of whether or not their condition is severe or nonsevere. Simply put, if their condition is having a damaging effect on their ability to engage in work activity, they should not be hesitant to list it on the disability application, and they should certainly not hesitate to file a claim.

B. The person's condition, or conditions, must be severe enough that it has either lasted a full year by the time of application, or can be projected to eventually last a full year, and also be severe enough to prevent the individual from being able to do their past work, or any other type of work (that their particular combination of skills, education, and training would ordinarily qualify them for).

These two items form the core of the definition of disability used by the Social Security Administration.

  • Social Security Disability Resource Center

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  • Getting disability in North Carolina

  • Filing for NC disability benefits

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

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