Social Security Disability Attorneys
At Riddle & Brantley, our attorneys understand the impact a denied Social Security disability claim can have on an individual and their family. Typically the applicant is the main source of income for the home which can cause a substantial burden on the household. More often than not, applications for Social Security disability are initially denied but an initial denial does not necessarily mean that the applicant is not entitled to benefits.
Our Social Security Disability team has extensive experience representing individuals in the application and appeals processes and have the resources needed to recover the benefits our clients deserve. Included on our team is our lead Social Security disability attorney, Scott Scurfield, who is a North Carolina Board-Certified Specialist in this area.
How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits in North Carolina
Injured workers, such as those that are eligible for workers’ compensation, should also apply for Social Security Disability benefits as soon as they become disabled. The application process begins with an appointment with the Social Security Administration (SSA) or by applying online. The claims representative assigned to your case will answer any questions you may have about the application process. He or she will handle all paperwork needed to send your claim to Disability Determination Services (DDS). This agency will make the initial determination as to whether you are considered disabled. The claims representative will also determine the disability programs for which you may be eligible, as well as benefits you are eligible to receive based on your work history.
We highly encourage applicants to speak with a Social Security disability attorney before beginning the application process. An attorney will be able to explain the process for filing for benefits and gathering the documents needed to submit a claim, increasing your odds of success.
Types of Social Security Disability Benefits
Disability Insurance Benefits (SSD or SSDI)
This is the most frequently-sought benefit provided by the SSA. Disability insurance benefits cover millions of people with a recent history of working but who are now disabled. Generally, eligible applicants include those who have worked at least five of the ten years before becoming disabled. Dependents (usually children and spouses) of the disabled worker may also be able to collect benefits. Disability benefit amounts are based on the applicant’s work history and earnings.
Disabled Adult Child Benefits (DAC)
Disabled children between the ages of 18 and 22 may be eligible for benefits if a parent receives Social Security retirement benefits or SSD, or is deceased.
Disabled Widow or Widower (DWB)
These benefits are provided to widows or widowers over the age of 50 who develop disabilities within seven years of the covered spouse’s death. The widow or widower is required to have been married to the deceased for a minimum of ten years.
Am I Eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?
The Social Security Administration has created a process to determine whether an SSD application is approved or not. In order to qualify for SSDI benefits, a person must be totally disabled, unable to work and their disability must be expected to last at least one year or result in death.
Furthermore, the process the Social Security Administration Office takes in order to determine if a person is disabled involves five questions.
Are you working?
As of January 1, 2018, in order to qualify for SSDI benefits, a person cannot earn more than $1,180per month from wages. By definition, earning more than that means that you are not “disabled” under the Social Security Act.
How severe is your condition?
Your disabling condition must be severe enough to significantly interfere with work-related activities.
Is your disability on the SSA’s list of disabling conditions?
The SSA maintains a list of conditions that automatically qualify a person for benefits if he or she meets the other criteria. If your condition is not on the list the SSA will move on to the next qualifying question.
Can you do the same work?
If your disabling condition prevents you from performing any of the same types of work you performed on a regular basis during the past fifteen years, you may qualify for benefits if you meet the other criteria.
Can you do any other type of work?
In addition to preventing you from performing your past work, your disabling condition must also be severe enough to prevent you from transitioning into other suitable work within your remaining abilities (your “residual functional capacity”).
Social Security Death Benefits
Social Security is intended to protect working parents and families. If a parent dies, their children may be entitled to receive benefits.
Unmarried children may collect benefits after a parent’s death if they are:
- Younger than 18
- Between the ages of 18 and 19, but are enrolled as full-time students at a secondary school
- Ages 18 and older, but have serious disabilities that occurred before they were 22
Benefits for Disabled Children
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may help families with children who have severe disabilities if they have minimal income and limited resources. These benefits may be paid regardless of a parent’s ability to work and will continue as long as a child is disabled and unable to provide for himself or herself financially.
Children may be eligible for SSI Disability benefits if:
- They have physical or mental conditions that cause serious functional limitations
- They’ve had these conditions for at least 12 months
- The conditions will persist for at least a year or be likely cause their death
- The disabled child is are not gainfully employed
Why Are People Denied Social Security Disability?
Disability Stems From Drug or Alcohol Abuse
If drug or alcohol abuse is “material to the finding of disability” (i.e. the real reason the person cannot work), the Social Security Act says that the person cannot qualify for benefits. THIS IS THE GENERAL RULE but there are qualifications and exceptions to it; not everyone who has a substance abuse problem is automatically disqualified from disability benefits. This is one of many complex issues for which the help of a knowledgeable and experienced disability attorney can greatly increase your odds of a successful claim.
Some applicants with criminal records are not eligible for benefits if the injury resulting in disability occurred during the commission of a felony; or if the disability arose or worsened while in a correctional facility; or if they intentionally orphaned or widowed themselves to receive benefits, or when parole or probation is violated.
Refusal to Cooperate
The Social Security Administration requires applicants to submit their doctors’ medical records. Failure to comply could result in the denial of benefits. For applicants who do not have a treating doctor, the SSA will request an examination with one of their doctors. Applicants who miss their appointments or refuse examinations may be denied benefits as well.
If an applicant lies on their application, the SSA may terminate benefits and the individual could be prosecuted for Social Security fraud.
In order to be eligible for SSD benefits, it must be determined that the injury or impairment will last for at least a year or is likely to lead to the applicant’s death. The only exception to this rule is statutorily blind applicants.
Appealing a Denied Social Security Claim
In the event, your application for Social Security disability benefits is denied, or you believe you are not compensated properly, you may appeal the decision by filing a written request within 60 days of receiving the decision letter. Your claim may then go through as many as four levels of review and appeal, including:
If your initial application for benefits is been denied, you or your attorney may file a request for “reconsideration.” During this stage, a claims examiner who was not involved in the initial review process will reconsider your application. They will review any new evidence that you or your attorney have uncovered to supplement your claim. Your attorney can respond on your behalf to any questions posed by the claims examiner during this stage.
If your claim is denied at the reconsideration stage, the next step is to request a hearing. At this point in the process, your attorney will file the paperwork necessary for you to get a “place in line” among the one-million-plus people also waiting for hearings with Administrative Law Judges. The wait time for a hearing currently averages around twenty-two months. Once a Judge is assigned and a hearing date set, your attorney may prepare you for questions that could be asked at your hearing; request the judge to subpoena witnesses; argue your case before the judge; question witnesses and experts; present new evidence or information; and, if you have already been awarded benefits, ask the judge to reassess the calculations.
If you are dissatisfied with the Judge’s decision, you can ask that it be reviewed by the Social Security Appeals Council. They can: 1) affirm the judge’s decision; 2) reverse it and grant you benefits, or 3) send the case back to the judge (“remand”) for further action to correct any errors in the process.
If your claim is denied review by the Appeal Council, you can file a lawsuit in federal district court.
How Can a Social Security Disability Attorney Help Me File a Claim?
Have you been denied Social Security Disability benefits? Nearly 60 percent of first-time Social Security Disability applicants are denied. The process of applying for benefits and appealing denied claims is complicated but having the help of an experienced Social Security disability attorney can increase your chances of approval.
At Riddle & Brantley, our attorneys and staff understand the frustration a denied benefits claim can produce. Therefore, our dedicated team is here to answer any questions you may have regarding Social Security disability. The best part is our consultations are always free and we work solely off a contingency fee meaning you don’t pay unless we win your case.
Don’t battle the process of obtaining benefits alone. Hire an experienced Social Security disability attorney to help. With offices throughout North Carolina and 24/7 case representatives, our firm is always ready to assist you with your claim. Contact us today by completing our free case evaluation form.