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Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Without the ability to work, most people will become vulnerable to economic hardship unless they have other financial sources on which to depend. If you had been working but then somehow became disabled or a previous disability – maybe one you were born with – worsened and now you are no longer able to work, it is good to know the Federal government implemented a program with you in mind. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program was created under Title II of the Social Security Act. It provides a monthly income to certain disabled persons when they are no longer able to work.

But qualifying for the program can be harder than you may think. Consider the following statistics for disabled-worker applications made between 2008 and 2017:

  • Denied disability claims averaged 64 percent
    • More than half of denied disability claims were for technical reasons
    • Less than half of denied disability claims were for medical reasons – meaning the health condition did not meet the legal definition of disability 
  • Awarded disability benefits averaged 33 percent
    • Disability claims on an average of 22 percent were awarded benefits at the initial claims level
    • Disability claims on an average of 2 percent were awarded at the reconsideration stage
    • Disability claims on an average of 9 percent were awarded at the hearing level.

Though the SSDI program is here to help persons who can no longer work due to a disability, the program is difficult to get into. The technical reasons for denial can simply mean forms were not appropriately completed while medical reasons can mean the application lacked sufficient proof that either you have the disability or the disability actually prevents you from working.

At Lloyd King Law Firm PLLC, we dedicate our practice to you: disabled persons who need and have earned the right to access and benefit from the SSDI program. Contact attorney Lloyd King if you live in North Carolina, are disabled, and want to file a disability claim or appeal a denied claim.

What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

For each paycheck you earn, you may have noticed FICA deductions –these deductions are what fund a federal program known as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI is administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The government provides monthly financial support to workers who have a disability and cannot work.

Once you are awarded SSDI disability benefits, you will continue to receive monthly financial support until you are able to work again or you reach retirement age, at which point you will begin receiving Social Security checks.

When is a person eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

As noted above, not everyone will be awarded disability benefits. To be eligible, you must satisfy certain criteria. Below is a list of the primary qualifiers.

  • You must be of working age, meaning you are between 21 and retirement age – retirement age is between 65-67 years old.
  • You must have worked a minimum of five out of the last 10 years.
  •  You must meet the legal definition of disabled.
  • Your medical condition must either prevent you from working for at least 12 months or is expected to result in death.

The two main factors to determine whether or not disability benefits are awarded and in what amount are:

  1. earned work credits; and
  2. proven disability.

Work Requirements

Social security benefits are measured in terms of work credits. Typically, a person must have earned 20 work credits in the last 10 years to qualify – equivalent to working at least five of the last 10 years at jobs that are covered by Social Security. This requirement, however, is different for workers younger than 31 years old who can qualify with fewer work credits because they have had less time to work.

You can earn up to four credits each year. To earn one credit, you must earn a certain amount in wages, and this amount changes each year. In 2020, you must earn $1,410 for one credit. So, it could turn out that you only earn 2 credits a year if you only earned between $2,820 and $4,230 in wages. But remember: these wages must be earned at a job where you paid Social Security tax.

The below table identifies credits needed to qualify for disability benefits corresponding with the worker's age and years worked.

Age of Disability

Years Worked

Credits Needed

under 24

1.5

6

24 - 30 

2 - 4.5

8 - 18

31 - 42

5

20

44

5.5

22

46

6

24

48

6.6

26

50

7

28

52

7.5

30

Medical Eligibility

SSDI benefits are only for total disability. You will not qualify for partial or short-term disability.  To qualify, your disability must fit within the legal definition of disability.

When filing for SSDI benefits, your disability must:

  • be a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that is expected to either cause death or last for more than 12 continuous months; and
  • prevent you from engaging in any substantial gainful activity (SGA), like the type of work you have been doing and cannot adjust to other work because of the medical condition.

The definition of disability is a strict one, and there are no exceptions. Also, the disability must be recognized and listed by the government in its Listing of Impairments.

What Disqualifies a Person for SSDI Benefits? 

There are a number of things that can disqualify a person from an award of SSDI benefits – in other words, there are a number of things that can cause an application to be denied. 

Your initial SSDI benefits claim or a claim on appeal may be denied if:

  • your impairment is not listed as a qualifying disability
  • you fail to prove you were disabled according to the legal definition
  • you are able to adjust to other types of work even if you can no longer perform the type of work you have been performing
  • you start working before disability benefits were awarded
  • you earned too much, i.e., your earnings were above the substantial gainful activity limit (the SGA limit changes slightly each year and for 2020, the SGA limit is $1260 unless you are blind, then the SGA limit is $2110)
  • you didn't work long enough in recent years
  • the impairment is not expected to last 12 months
  • you failed to cooperate or did not want to continue developing the claim
  • you provided insufficient medical evidence.

After your claim is approved and you are awarded SSDI benefits, you can still lose the benefits if your medical condition improves to the point you can work again. If the latter is true, you are provided a trial work period and will still be able to collect benefits during this time. You can also lose your disability benefits if you are incarcerated for more than 30 days or face deportation. 

How Do I Apply for SSDI Benefits in North Carolina?

To apply for SSDI benefits in North Carolina, you can find the forms online or go into a local Social Security Administration office. The forms are long and can be daunting for some people. But once you have them completed, you can either file online, by mail, or in-person.

A few local SSA offices in North Carolina are listed below.

US Social Security Administration
4701 Old Wake Forest Road
Raleigh, NC 27609

US Social Security Administration
833 Gregory Drive
Roanoke Rapids, NC 27870

US Social Security Administration
2201 Coronation Boulevard, #100
Charlotte, NC 28227

You can find out which local field applies to you by calling the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213.

There are also four Offices of Disability Adjudication and Review, which is where SSD hearings are conducted. These four offices are found in the following cities with the following average wait time:

  • Charlotte with an average wait time of 19 months
  • Fayetteville with an average wait time of 17 months
  • Greensboro with an average wait time of 18 months
  • Raleigh with an average wait time of 15 months.

You have a 50/50 chance statistically of winning your SSD appeal, but the chances of winning the appeal are higher than having your initial application accepted.

Contact a Disability Benefits Attorney in North Carolina Today

Lloyd King devotes his legal practice to help clients secure disability benefits when they need and deserve them. He has a thorough knowledge of the system, meaning less work and stress for you. He also knows what the agents and judges look for when they determine to award benefits or not.

Contact Lloyd King Law Firm PLLC today.

Contact Us Today!

If you have been denied Social Security disability benefits, or you need help completing the application process, call me to discuss your case. I am a former Social Security Disability Judge and I am here to help!

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