Filing for Long-term Disability in North Carolina

If you are a resident of North Carolina and you intend to make a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), then get ready to be denied. North Carolina is one of the states where a state agency is the one that decides to approve or deny your initial long-term disability claim. This agency is called the Disability Determination Services (DDS) and it approves 25% fewer applications than the average nationwide. Only 37.9% of the 69% that get past the initial application get approved for SSDI, and for North Carolina, the approval rate is even lower.

The DDS assigns one person, a single decision maker (SDM), to decide if an application has merit i.e. applicant is disabled. In general, it takes two people to decide this, an examiner and a medical doctor, but North Carolina dispenses with a doctor to streamline the process when the long-term disability claim is physical in nature. However, if the claim is based on a mental, emotional or psychiatric problem, then a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist must be consulted by the examiner to determine the extent of the disability.

If a claim for long-term disability is denied at the initial phase, the best thing to do is to engage a long-term disability appeals lawyer practicing in North Carolina before filing for a Request for Reconsideration. This is because if you get denied because you didn’t file the correct paperwork or made an error, you will have to go to the next step, which is a Request for Hearing, which on average can take more than a year just to get a hearing date. This delay can pose a hardship for you and your family if you are unable to work and your financial situation becomes increasingly dire.

However, if a hearing is inevitable, you will still want to retain a lawyer to represent you before the Administrative law judges (ALJ) who decide on long-term disability appeals. This will eliminate the possibility of technical errors that could cost you your claim, and increase your chances of being one of the 60% or so cases that get ALJ approval. If you still don’t get approved, you will need to go to the Social Security Appeals Council (AC) within 60 days after the ALJ hands down its decision. The AC will review the decision of the ALJ to see if an error was made in the ruling. The fourth and final resort if the AC still denies the claim is federal district court.

Getting denied for SSDI can send you down a long and frustrating road of appeals, so you will want to nip that in the bud. Retaining a lawyer may seem like an unnecessary step to take, but it will be worth it in the long run. If at all possible, consult with a lawyer when you first make your application for a long-term disability claim in North Carolina.

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