Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal government program that provides benefits to those who are injured or sick and cannot work. Successfully filing a claim that is accepted on the first attempt can be challenging without professional help. An experienced North Carolina Social Security Disability lawyer can boost your chances of getting your claim approved.
Rely on our team to guide you when you begin applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. At the Ricci Law Firm, you work with a licensed SSD attorney who understands the application and appeal processes. We can help you avoid common mistakes when you first apply. We also specialize in reviewing denied claims to identify errors so they can be corrected.
Ricci Law Firm Strengthens Your Social Security Disability Claim
When a disability prevents you from working, you need an aggressive advocate who can represent you at any stage of the application process. Our team will ensure you have the forms filled out completely and correctly, so you avoid one of the most common mistakes people make.
Each application is reviewed closely by the Social Security Administration. Missing details or information errors will result in a denial, setting you back in the system and delaying your benefits. When you are denied, you need to be sure you get it right when you resubmit your forms, and Ricci Law Firm offers experienced SSD attorneys to guide you.
Some law firms will help you through the first three levels of appeal when you are denied, but few will go the full distance to the Federal Court review. This is a demanding situation that not every disability lawyer is ready to face. At Ricci Law Firm, our founding lawyer is certified as a specialist in Social Security Disability law by the North Carolina State Bar. We will be with you every step of the way.
Social Security Disability Insurance vs. Supplemental Security Income
The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two main programs for people who need benefits. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is for those who are injured or sick and unable to work. You must have paid into the system with Social Security taxes during your career.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is based on individuals who need benefits but are not eligible under SSDI. It is meant to help older adults with a fixed income and anyone who has limited financial resources.
SSDI is meant for people who have worked a certain number of years and earned a minimum amount of credits. SSI focuses on those without a long work history or anyone who needs help while they wait for their SSDI benefits to be approved. Our SSD lawyers can assist you with filing both kinds of claims and improving your chances of success.
Qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits
Each year of your working life, you can receive Social Security credits that will be used to calculate your benefits when you retire. You can receive up to four credits per year, and each credit is awarded based on your income. This wage amount changes every year, and you need a total of 40 credits to retire and file a claim for regular Social Security benefits.
Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are calculated differently but still use the credit method. Eligibility is based on how long you have worked and how recently. For example:
- Before age 24: You must earn six credits during the three years before your disability.
- Age 24 to 31: You are eligible for disability benefits if you worked half of the time from age 21 til your disability began. A disability at age 27 means you need three years of work between age 21 and 27.
- Age 31 or older: Most applicants must earn 20 credits in the ten years prior to their disability.
The Social Security Administration’s guidelines describe additional criteria you must meet to qualify for SSDI:
- You are not able to do the job you were doing.
- You cannot perform other work due to your injury or illness.
- Your illness or injury has lasted or is projected to last at least 12 months.
- You brought in less monthly income for the year than described in the Social Security limit.
Working with the Social Security Disability lawyers at the Ricci Law Firm can help clear up any confusion about whether you qualify for benefits when you are hurt or sick. Once we have helped you submit your application, there is a 6-12 month wait until your disability hearing is scheduled at your regional Social Security administration office.
The hearing is conducted by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who will ask you questions about your disability. They will want to know how your life has been affected, and our disability attorneys will prepare you for the hearing and attend with you. Once the hearing is over, you will receive your benefits decision within two to three months.
As we mentioned, the benefits application process is very time-consuming. Waiting for benefits can take most of a year, but there are some situations that can automatically qualify you for approval, such as:
- You suffer from one of the SSA’s recognized disabling conditions.
- You have lost your spouse, are considered blind, are raising a disabled child, or are considered a Wounded Warrior.
The SSA also has two programs that help speed up the review process for disability claims:
- Compassionate allowances: If your medical condition is terminal, such as certain cancers or Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), you can receive benefits to make your remaining time more comfortable.
- Quick Disability Determinations (QDD): This is a recent innovation that uses a computer algorithm to examine applications. It identifies claims meeting enough criteria that they will likely be approved. This program can reduce the wait time from months to days.
How SSD Benefits Help You and Your Family
Bills will pile up when you cannot work. Whether you live on your own or are supporting a family, SSDI benefits provide monthly cash payments that can keep you afloat as you pay for food, housing, medical care, and transportation. In addition to help from charitable organizations or other support programs, your SSDI payments can lessen the hardship you may face when you must be out of work due to illness or injury.
Your loved ones may also be eligible for benefits, including:
- Spouses aged 62 or older
- Spouses who care for children who are younger than 16 or disabled
- Unmarried children under 18
- Unmarried children over 18 who have a qualifying disability that began before they reached the age of 22.
- Ex-spouses age 62 or older who were married to you for at least ten years.
Children can also receive their own benefits when you are approved for SSDI. They can be biological children, adopted children, or stepchildren. Even your grandchild can qualify if they are your dependent. Your disability attorney can evaluate your situation and advise you whether your children are eligible and how to file for their benefits.
Another way SSDI can support your family is after you die. Your survivors can request benefits, and the younger you were when you passed away, the fewer work credits are required for them to be eligible. There are even circumstances where your family can be paid even if you do not have the full number of credits required.
How a Ricci Law Firm SSD Lawyer Can Help You
At first glance, it may seem that the Social Security Administration has made it simple to apply for SSDI benefits. You can complete your application online, over the telephone, or by visiting your local Social Security Administration office. However, the truth is that up to 67% of all applications are denied on the first attempt.
People often make mistakes when filling in information or leave questions blank if they are unsure what to put. Ricci Law Firm understands that you may be afraid of hurting your chances if you do not know how to answer. Our disability lawyers can help you change an empty space into an accurate response that supports your claim for benefits.
Working with our Social Security Disability attorneys means you do not need to understand the details of applying. We guide you through each step of the process and will evaluate your situation to see if you can take advantage of the allowances the SSA provides.
Our team helps you:
- When you are overwhelmed by the filing process
- When you are having trouble finding the right documentation to support your claim
- When you are denied benefits and need to file an appeal
- When you want to ensure you have the best chance of quickly receiving benefits
Our SSD attorneys give you confidence and peace of mind that your application will have a strong chance of approval. We work with your physicians as needed, so we have the most thorough documentation to support your claim. As more information becomes available, we will have it ready to use in case your request is denied.
Ricci Law Firm prides itself on helping our clients receive needed benefits when they experience an unexpected disability. Each Social Security Disability attorney at our office wants you to secure the payments you deserve when you have been stricken with a debilitating condition.
What to Do When Your Social Security Disability Claim Is Denied
As mentioned, the large majority of denials are made due to missing information, inaccurate answers, or a lack of supporting material for the disability. When your claim is denied, you will receive a letter indicating what went wrong. Your SSD lawyer can review the letter and help you prepare to appeal.
When you receive your denial letter, you will have only 60 days to begin an appeal. You can include any new documentation that became available while you waited to hear the decision. Further medical support could mean the difference when you ask for a reconsideration of your claim.
There are other reasons for denial that mean you are ineligible to request an appeal, such as:
- You can return to your job at normal duty before your claim is completed.
- Your medical condition will not last as long as 12 months.
- You are not following your doctor’s orders for treatment by missing appointments or engaging in activities you were advised not to do.
- Your condition is not considered severe, according to the SSA guidelines.
- You are well enough to return to your regular job or can perform another job, including light-duty work, for your company.
- Your disability or impairment is due to drug or alcohol abuse.
When any of these situations occur, your attorney will likely advise you to avoid the stress of continuing to apply for SSDI benefits or trying to pursue an appeal. They may be able to recommend other avenues for financial assistance.
The Four Steps of Appealing a Denied Social Security Disability Claim in North Carolina
Having a claim denied is not the end of the road for your Social Security Disability claim. You should not give up or try to start over. If you let the 60 days expire or file a new claim, you will actually be put back at the beginning of the process as if you had never filed before. Your 6-12 month waiting period starts all over again.
Rather than face that long timeframe, you can work with our SSD attorneys, who are fully prepared to assist you through every step of the appeals process. We can showcase your request for benefits in the best light possible to increase your chances of approval.
There are four levels in the appeals process, and they are completed in successive order. If you continue to be denied, you can keep moving up the levels until you reach the top. Many SSD lawyers will not take a case to the Federal Court level, but the Ricci Law Firm is with you all the way.
Level One: Reconsideration
The first level is reconsideration. This asks for a review by someone who was not part of your original examination team, especially if your claim was denied for medical reasons. Using a different reviewer can improve the chances of getting your application approved at this appeal level, especially if you can provide new medical documentation.
You can also ask for a reconsideration if your denial was made because of your living arrangements, income level, or if you have been overpaid for your benefits.
Level Two: Administrative Law Judge Hearing
The second level of appeal is a hearing in front of another Administrative Law Judge. This will be a different judge from the one who conducted your initial benefits hearing. They will also not have played any other part in reviewing your application.
Just as you did for your original request for benefits, you will attend this hearing at your regional Social Security Administration office. You can have your SSD lawyer by your side at this meeting after you receive notice of when the hearing will occur.
Level Three: Review by the Appeals Council
If you are still denied benefits after appearing before the Administrative Law Judge, you can request a review by the Social Security Administration’s Appeals Council. The Council is not required to accept all requests and will examine your appeal before agreeing to take your case.
If the Appeals Council believes that the Administrative Law Judge made the correct decision, your appeal is considered finished. It can also return your case to the Administrative Law Judge level for another review. Finally, the Council may decide to accept your appeal and review it. You will receive a copy of the final action granted on your claim.
Level Four: Federal Court Review
The final level is the request for a review of your case in a Federal district court. You can complete all the previous appeals on your own, although you can improve your chances with a skilled disability attorney. However, the fourth level requires you have a lawyer file a civil action to request the review.
As mentioned before, our founding lawyer has special certifications as a Social Security Disability attorney and is ready to help you with your Federal Court review. Ricci Law Firm is not afraid to take your claim all the way to court to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve.
Hire a North Carolina Social Security Disability Lawyer Today
When you are facing an uncertain financial future because you cannot work, you should be able to rely on the government programs that are put in place to help people like you. However, like any federal system, it can be confusing and frustrating to achieve the results you need. When you are sick or injured, you have even less strength or time to fight for the benefits you are owed.
At Ricci Law Firm, each North Carolina Social Security Disability lawyer is dedicated to making sure your application is as complete and accurate as possible so you can obtain your benefits without unnecessary complications. We identify any circumstances that could speed up your claim and are not discouraged if your claim is denied. Our professionals protect your rights and keep you informed at all times on how your claim is going.
Do not delay getting help with your Social Security Disability benefits request. Contact us now to schedule your free consultation.