If you have applied for benefits through the Social Security Disability (SSD) program and been denied, you may feel frustrated and unsure what to do. You may be worried because you cannot work and need disability benefits to make ends meet. More than 300,000 adults and children in North Carolina receive disability benefits. Many of those people obtained SSD benefits after being turned down initially.
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A Fresh Look at Your SSD Benefits Application
It may comfort you to know that roughly half of all SSD benefits applications are initially denied. Many of those denials are mistakes. They can be reversed on appeal. To understand why your benefits claim may have been denied, you need a fresh examination of your case. A social security lawyer from Hardison & Cochran can analyze your application and see if:
- You meet the work and disability requirements needed to obtain SSD benefits; and
- Your application correctly showed that you meet those requirements.
Often, the problem isn’t whether you have met the SSA’s requirements. Instead, your application may have lacked information or failed to provide sufficient medical evidence of your disability. Basically, you may not have stated your case for SSD benefits clearly enough. It’s important to present a complete application the first time because there can be considerable delays. You don’t want an incomplete application to cause further delays. Consider these statistics from the Social Security Administration related to the processing of SSD claims by offices in North Carolina:
- 15 months — Average wait time from the date a hearing is requested until a hearing is held in the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review’s hearing offices in Raleigh.
- 10,314—Number of disability claims cases pending in Raleigh office
- 513 days—Average number of days until final disposition of cases processed by the SSD hearing office in Raleigh
- 18 months—Average wait time from the date a hearing is requested until a hearing is held in Office of Disability Adjudication and Review hearing offices in Fayetteville, N.C.
- 7,709—Number of disability claims cases pending in Fayetteville office
- 572 days—Average number of days until final disposition of cases processed by the SSD hearing office in Fayetteville
Do You Have Enough Work Credits for SSD Benefits?
You need to make sure that your application accurately shows that you have worked long enough to qualify for SSD benefits. In other words, you need to show you are “insured.” This is determined by the number of “work credits” you have earned. Work credits are based on your earnings. For instance, in 2013, you earned one work credit for every $1,160 you earned. The most work credits you can earn in a single year are four. Your application must show that you pass two different types of earnings tests: Recent work test and duration of work test. The number of work credits you need to pass these tests will depend on how old you were when you became disabled. For example, let’s assume you are age 31 at the time you suffered your disability:
- Recent work test – You will need to have worked for five out of the 10 years leading up to your disability to meet this test. In other words, you will need to have earned at least 20 work credits during that 10-year period.
- Duration of work test – To meet this test, you will need to have worked at least two years. This means you will need to have earned at least eight work credits.
A lawyer from Hardison & Cochran can make sure your work credit information is correct, complete and effectively communicated to the SSA.
Do You Meet the SSA’s Definition of Disability?
Your application must also show that you meet the SSA’s strict definition of disability. This means you must show that you suffer from a physical or mental condition that prevents you from working and which is expected to last at least one year or result in death. When you submitted your application to the SSA, it was forwarded to your nearest N.C. Disability Determination Services (DDS) office. There, a DDS claims examiner and a medical consultant reviewed your medical information to determine if you were disabled. If this two-person team did not have complete information, it may have led to a denial of your application for medical reasons. You need to make clear to this DDS team that your condition prevents you from working, and that it falls within a list of medical conditions that are so “severe” that you are considered to be disabled as a matter of law. If your condition is not on that list, you must show that it is at least equal to a listed condition. Hardison & Cochran can review your medical records and ensure that the most accurate and up-to-date information is conveyed to those who will make a determination of your disability.
Don’t Delay Appealing the Denial of Your SSD Application
You only have 60 days from the date of your last denial to file for an appeal. If you miss this deadline, you may have to start over the application process from scratch. Also, an appeal can take many months to be resolved. So, don’t delay taking action. Contact us right away. Keep in mind: If you fail to qualify for SSD, you may still be eligible for other benefits such as Supplemental Security Income. Hardison & Cochran can help you look at all of your options.
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