Are you unable to work because of your health or have you already been denied for Social Security Disability in the past? If so, read on for how a Social Security Disability Lawyer in Chapel Hill, NC can help with your case in front of the Social Security Administration. Call us today for a free case evaluation, (919) 615-3095.

Types of Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security generally offers two types of benefits for the disabled: Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is based on the credits from the work you have done in your life. If you have worked 5 of the last 10 years, you likely qualify for SSDI benefits. SSI is a need based program. In 2020, SSI is $783 a month for an individual and $1,175 for a eligible couple. If your wage history is low enough, you may be eligible for both SSDI and SSI.

Disability benefits are available for claimants who are unable to work because of their health and their impairment is expected to last a year or more or result in death. You must be found disabled under SSA’s Five Step Sequential Evaluation to be entitled to either benefit:

  1. Step 1 – Are You Working?  The Social Security Administration defines work as “Substantial Gainful Activity” (SGA). SGA is roughly defined as work from earnings that average more than $1,260 (2020) a month. If you are making that amount you generally cannot be considered disabled.
  2. Step 2 – Is Your Condition “Severe”? Severe is defined by the Social Security Administration as: your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered.
  3. Step 3 – Is Your Condition on the List of Disabling Conditions? The Listings are very hard to meet in most cases and not always interpreted as a common reading would suggest. If you meet a listing you are gravely ill. The listings are found here.
  4. Step 4 – Can You Do the Work You Did Previously? The Social Security Administration will look at your past work and determine if it was sedentary, light, medium, or heavy. They also will evaluate the skill level: unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled. For instance, an attorney would be sedentary skilled work. The Dictionary of Occupational Titles is found here.
  5. Step 5 – Can You Do Any Other Type of Work? If the Social Security Administration finds that you cannot do what you used to do, they then look to see if you can do anything else. This is where the “grids” come into play. The grids are the Medical-Vocational Guidelines. The grids are only for exertional impairments. Non-exertional impairments are not considered by the grids. If you are found to be capable of any other work, you will be found not disabled. Read The Grids and Your Social Security Disability Case.

The Five Step Sequential Evaluation will be applied at every level your case has to go through: initial, reconsideration, hearing and the Appeals Council. Federal Court cases are filed after you have exhausted all other agency appeals. You can be approved at any level but you have a much better statistical chance of being approved before an SSA Administrative Law Judge at a hearing.

Outside determinations of disability (like those found in Veterans’ Rating Decisions, NC Workers’ Compensation Ratings and even Personal Injury cases) do not automatically qualify you for Social Security Disability. You must be found disabled under Social Security Disability Law to receive benefits.

Some Facts about Chapel Hill, NC

The local Social Security Office is located at 3511 Shannon Road, Suite 200 in Durham, NC. Their phone number is 1-888-759-3908. According to SSA, as of December 2018, 1,466 people in Orange County received Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

If you live in Chapel Hill and have to go to a SSA hearing, your hearing will be held at the Raleigh OHO (SSA Office of Hearing Operations) at 4800 Falls of the Neuse Rd, Suite 200 (near our Raleigh office).

If you are unable to afford food or shelter, you can try Orange County Social Services for help. Disabled individuals in Chapel Hill without health insurance or Medicaid can try one of the Orange County Free Clinics for treatment or NC MedAssist for their medications. 

We usually meet our Chapel Hill Social Security Disability clients at our Raleigh office.

Six truths about applying for Social Security Disability

Truth#1 – This is not a quick process. Unfortunately, most people who apply for disability in North Carolina are denied at the first two levels ( Initial and Reconsideration ) by Disability Determination Services (DDS). You may have heard stories of people who were approved in a few weeks or months. While those approvals do happen, most claimants have to go to a hearing to have their case approved. Some people have to go beyond a hearing to the Appeals Council or even Federal Court.

Truth #2 – You MUST get medical treatment. If you cannot afford medical treatment, you must do everything that you can to obtain medical treatment while you wait for your hearing. You should apply for Medicaid, try low cost clinics in your area, seek charity care and go to the emergency room if you have to. Going in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) without medical records and no attempts to obtain medical treatment spells denied claim. Sick people go to the doctor.

Truth #3 – Having your doctor’s support can really help your case. Your doctor is the best source of information about your health. If your doctor supports your disability and documents reasons for this in his/her medical records, this can help your case.

Truth #4 – Honesty is the best policy in dealing with SSA and your disability attorney. Be honest about everything. It helps your case now and later. In my practice, honesty doesn’t always guarantee a win but being dishonest can almost guarantee a denial of a disability claim.

Truth #5 – Any evidence that is given to the SSA should be organized, complete, and readable.

Truth #6 – If you are able to represent yourself through the disability process (fill out paperwork, get all your medical records, represent yourself at hearing, etc), why can’t you work a job? Unfortunately, some ALJs do feel this way.

Do you need a Disability Lawyer Chapel Hill, NC?

Since most people are denied at DDS (around 70%), the best strategy is to give DDS everything that they need as soon as possible and appeal denials quickly. Also, calling DDS for status helps to prevent your case from gathering dust on someone’s desk.

The Bishop Law Firm will communicate with your examiner and let you know if they need anything from you as soon as possible. We will also appeals denials as soon as we can. We realize that a week can make a huge difference to someone who is without income. We can also advise you of places to try to get free or reduced cost medical care and where to apply for charity care, medicaid and get free medications, etc.

A letter from your doctor saying that you are “permanently disabled” or “unable to work” will not help your Social Security Disability case. Your doctor needs to give specifics about your exertional and non-exertional restrictions and what causes those restrictions. An experienced Chapel Hill, NC Social Security Disability Lawyer knows what questions to ask and will give you forms to take to your doctor to get the opinion we need to support your case. In addition to getting your doctor’s opinion, we will order your medical records for you. We will receive and submit your medical records electronically to SSA ensuring a complete record with names and dates of your treatment.

Representing yourself through this process can result in disaster. Some people do win their cases who represent themselves, but unfortunately the clients that come to me after trying to represent themselves have very incomplete and disorganized files. How can you expect the SSA to approve you without having all the information they need?

Kimberly D. Bishop, Attorney at Law, is a North Carolina State Bar Board Certified Social Security Disability Lawyer . Our firm does not get paid unless we win your case AND you receive compensation (back-pay). While no one can guarantee a win in your case, it can help you to have an Social Security Disability Lawyer on your side who knows the law and your case. Call our firm today for a free case evaluation at (919) 615-3095.