Your doctor told you that you have a medical condition that keeps you from being able to work. What will you do now? Clearly, you will need some assistance to make ends meet.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are the answer for many people in Gastonia and surrounding communities. However, obtaining these benefits in North Carolina can be a challenge – putting it mildly. This is especially true if your application is initially denied.
It will help you to speak with a Gastonia social security attorney who understands what you are going through and who will fight hard for you at every stage in the process. You do not have to do this alone.
Get in touch with Teddy, Meekins & Talbert today. We would be glad to assist you in any way we can.
The law office of Teddy, Meekins & Talbert is located in Gastonia, NC. Our mission is to provide aggressive, innovative, and passionate representation for people who are often in the midst of stress and anxiety associated with legal problems.
It is important to understand your options for receiving financial assistance if you develop a long-term disability or terminal disease that leaves you unable to work. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two programs of financial assistance for such individuals:
This program pays monthly benefits to disabled workers based on their work history. Your disability must prevent you from performing “substantial gainful activity” and be expected to last at least a year or result in death in order to qualify under the SSA’s guidelines. Your monthly benefits are based on your average lifetime earnings.
This program is designed for people who suffer from a qualifying disability and have a very low income but are not eligible to receive SSDI benefits because they lack a sufficient work history. In addition to federal benefits, you may be eligible for a supplement in North Carolina. If you qualify for SSI, you also automatically qualify for Medicaid assistance.
When you suffer from a disability, of course, your family members suffer as well. The SSA recognizes this fact. When you apply for federal disability benefits, certain family members may be eligible for benefits as well, including:
Your attorney from Teddy, Meekins & Talbert can review your medical records, work history and the potential eligibility of your family members. We can then provide sound advice on your disability benefits options.
Before you apply for SSDI or SSI benefits in North Carolina, you should make sure to compile your medical records and other basic information. See the SSA Checklist to learn more.
You should also get a statement from your doctor. The statement can provide important information about the nature of your condition. It can also explain why, in the doctor’s opinion, your condition prevents you from working.
A lawyer from Teddy, Meekins & Talbert can help you to compile this information. We can also work with your doctor and obtain a written statement for your claim.
Submitting your application is actually a fairly easy and straightforward process. You can turn in your application in one of three ways:
After you apply, you can contact us to check on the status of your application. You can also go to the SSA website for a status update.
Unfortunately, a high percentage of SSDI benefits applications are initially denied. The denial may be due to technical errors – mistakes you can easily avoid by working with an attorney on your application. An application may also be denied because you do not meet the SSA’s work history requirements.
However, as we have seen, many SSDI benefits applications are denied because the SSA found that you did not have a qualifying “disability.” In a great deal of those cases, the SSA simply lacked enough information to make its decision.
To understand, it may help you to know how your SSDI benefits claim will be decided.
After you submit your application, your case will be sent to North Carolina Disability Determination Services (DDS). This is a state agency that is funded by the federal government. DDS assigns a two-person team to review your case: A claims examiner and a medical consultant.
The two-person DDS team will decide if you have a qualifying “disability” by going through a five-step process:
Are you engaged in substantial gainful activity?
If you earn $1,130 or more per month (in 2016) or $1,820 or more per month (if you are blind), then you do not qualify. However, if you earn less than those amounts, DDS goes to the next step.
Do you suffer from a “severe” condition?
DDS will examine your medical records and your doctor’s statement (if provided). If DDS decides your condition is not severe, your claim will be denied. If DDS find it is severe, the review will go to the next step.
Do you have an impairment that matches or is it equal in severity to one listed in the Blue Book?
The SSA provides detailed descriptions of impairments that are grouped into 14 categories. If your symptoms match or equal the severity of one or more of those impairments, then you will be considered “disabled” and eligible for SSDI benefits. If not, your case will go to the next step.
Can you return to your previous work?
DDS will determine your “residual functional capacity.” First, DDS will consider whether your condition keeps you from being able to do the work you did before. If so, your claim will be denied. If not, DDS will go to the final step.
Can you do any other type of work?
If you cannot do your previous line of work, DDS will consider whether you can do any other form of work given your age, education, training and occupational history. If you cannot, then DDS will deem you to be disabled.
If your claim is approved, you should receive a letter in the mail that states:
If your claim is denied, then you should not get discouraged. You have the right to appeal the decision. You also have many stages of appeal that you can go through.
First, you can submit a Request for Reconsideration. You must send this request in writing within 60 days after the date of your denial. A different DDS team will review your claim, including any new medical information you submit.
Second, if your claim is denied again, you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge. For those who live in or around Gastonia, this hearing would likely be held at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in Charlotte.
The wait time for a hearing can be more than a year. However, we can explore all options for expediting a decision. For instance, if you are eligible for an on-the-record review or attorney-advisor decision, your case can be decided without the need for a hearing.
Finally, if your claim is denied again, we can help you with seeking a review from the Appeals Council in Virginia or with filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina (which has a branch in Charlotte).
At Teddy, Meekins & Talbert, we can provide invaluable assistance at each stage of the disability benefits process, including:
While you are not required to work with an attorney during the claims process, it is highly advisable. Keep in mind that an attorney has special training and is held to certain professional and ethical standards in North Carolina. The same cannot be said for non-attorney advocates.
There is no reason to go through the daunting process of obtaining SSDI and SSI benefits alone. We are here to help you. Call a disability lawyer at Teddy, Meekins & Talbert today or reach us online. Our initial consultations are always free.