Appealing a Denial of Social Security Disability Benefits in North Carolina
Charlotte, NC Lawyer
Individuals with disabilities in North Carolina who are unable to gain employment may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if they meet the federal government’s definition of disabled. Initial applications may be made to a local social security office, and once that office decides that the applicant meets the basic eligibility requirements pertaining to income levels or work credits, the application is forwarded to North Carolina’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) agency. This agency is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services and is responsible for making the initial decisions regarding eligibility.
The Social Security Administration’s criteria for eligibility for disability benefits includes both satisfying its medical disability criteria and non-medical criteria involving work credits. For the purpose of gaining disability benefits, the medical criteria requires that applicants be able to show that they have an impairment, either medical, psychological, or psychiatric in nature, that keeps them from being able to do substantial gainful employment. Additionally, the impairment must be of such a nature that it prevents an applicant from gainful employment for at least twelve months or be expected to prevent the individual from gainful employment for at least twelve months.
As to non-medical criteria, an applicant must earn less than a certain amount of money each month so as to not be considered able to do gainful employment, have paid FICA taxes for a requisite number of years to the Social Security Administration, and satisfy certain citizenship or lawful residency requirements. For the income requirements, federal regulations use the national average wage index to set the income limits each year. However, this only limits employment income and does not include income from investments, interest, or a spouse’s income.
If a disability benefits application is denied, an applicant only has sixty days from the day of the denial to appeal the decision. The first step in appealing is known as requesting reconsideration. Once the request is submitted, the social security office will forward the request to DDS in Raleigh. A DDS officer who was not involved in the original denial will review the request and make a determination. If the decision is to uphold the denial, then the applicant may request a disability hearing. At the hearing. the applicant may present evidence and ask witnesses to testify. The hearing is conducted by an administrative law judge of the Social Security Administration, and it may take over a year before a hearing is scheduled. Once the claim is approved, an applicant may pursue retroactive benefits from the time the original claim should have been approved.
If the administrative law judge decides to affirm the denial, applicants may request a review by the Social Security Appeals Council, which may either decide to review the case or return it to an administrative law judge for further review. Applicants may then file a lawsuit in federal district court, if they have exhausted the administrative process.
There are extensive procedural requirements involved in applying for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration. The attorneys at Bice Law, LLC can help you navigate the maze of procedures involved in obtaining social security disability benefits. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.
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