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Disability benefits in north carolina

North Carolina Disability Benefits: How to Qualify, Apply, and Get Approved

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
January 23, 2023  ·  7 min read
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Atticus offers free, high-quality disability advice for Americans who can't work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience, and have helped over 10,000 Americans apply for disability benefits.

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When your disability keeps you from working, it may be time to file for disability benefits. While the process of filing a disability claim in North Carolina may be confusing or intimidating, monthly disability benefits can offer you greater financial protection.

Data released by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in 2022 shows about 344,000 North Carolina residents received disability benefits. In this article, we’ll walk you through how you can apply for disability benefits in North Carolina and what to expect throughout the process.

We've helped 5,891 people apply for disability in North Carolina.

What North Carolina disability program should I apply for?

North Carolina does not have its own disability program, but there are federal and private programs you may be eligible for that provide disability benefits:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): SSDI is a program created for Americans who have worked for years but are now unable to work due to a health condition or disability. Most workers pay into the Social Security program through their paycheck taxes and the amount of your SSDI benefits depends on how long you’ve paid into it.

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI is an option for those who haven’t worked long enough or recently enough to qualify for SSDI.It’s also a federal program and you apply using the same application as SSDI. SSI is a needs-based program, which means you can qualify only if your income and assets do not exceed a certain threshold.

  • Veterans disability benefits: You can apply for VA disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs if you served in the military and sustained an injury that left you unable to work. You can get VA benefits alongside SSDI or SSI. Learn more about how to apply for VA benefits.

  • Private short-term or long-term disability insurance: If you purchased a disability policy on your own or through your employer prior to becoming disabled, then you can file a claim through the insurer. The payout percentage depends on the terms and conditions of your policy but is often about two-thirds of your wages. Even if you have a private long-term plan, the insurer may require you to apply for SSDI.

For the rest of this guide, we will refer to the SSDI and SSI programs since they’re the most widely available and the ones most North Carolinians qualify for. These are the programs most are referring to when they talk about “applying for disability.”

Skip the reading. See which benefits you qualify for in 2 minutes or less.

Qualifying for disability in North Carolina

To qualify for disability in North Carolina, you must have a qualifying medical condition, and meet certain work history or income requirements. Below are the basic qualifications.

SSDI qualifications in North Carolina

There are three basic criteria for SSDI:

  • You are under 67 years old.

  • You have a disability that will last for at least one more year or cause your death.

  • You’ve earned enough work credits through the Social Security Administration. You can check this number by creating an account at SSA.gov. Most people qualify if they’ve worked at least five of the last 10 years.

Learn more about SSDI eligibility here.

SSI qualifications in North Carolina

To qualify for SSI, you must:

  • Have a disability that is expected to continue for at least one more year, or have a terminal condition.

  • Have little or no savings and other assets — less than $2,000 if you’re single and less than $3,000 if you’re married.

  • Earn less than about $1,000 of monthly income from any source.

Read more on qualifying for SSI here.


What medical conditions qualify for disability in North Carolina?

A medical condition can qualify for Social Security disability benefits, as long as it keeps you from working, you expect it to last at least one more year, or it’s a terminal condition. (Learn more in our guide to qualifying conditions.)

Here are the most common qualifying conditions for residents of North Carolina, along with the percentage of recipients who receive disability benefits for that condition:

  • Congenital abnormalities: 0.5%

  • Endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic diseases: 2.8%

  • Infectious and parasitic diseases: 1.2%

  • Injuries: 3.6%

  • Mental disorders: 30.6%

  • Neoplasms: 3.2%

  • Diseases of the blood and blood forming organs: 0.3%

  • Diseases of the circulatory system: 7.8%

  • Diseases of the digestive system:1.5%

  • Diseases of the genito-urinary system: 2.0%

  • Diseases of the musculo-skeletal system: 31.4%

  • Diseases of the nervous system: 9.8%

  • Diseases of the respiratory system: 2.8%

  • Diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue: 0.3%

  • Other: 0.2%

  • Unknown: 1.8%

The most common mental health conditions were:

  • Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders: 32,832 people

  • Intellectual disorders: 31,955 people

  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders: 14,266 people


How to apply for disability in North Carolina

You can apply for disability benefits in North Carolina on your own but if you want help with your application, you can also work with a disability lawyer.

In addition to the main application form, you’ll need to complete supplementary forms on your work history and how your condition affects your day-to-day functioning (function report). You’ll also need records of your treatment history.

How do I submit an application?

You can submit your disability benefits application in three ways:

  1. Apply online through the SSA website.

  2. Apply over the phone by calling 1-800-772-1213 or your local office.

  3. Apply in person at your local SSA office.

We recommend you apply at an SSA office if you’re not applying with a lawyer. While the office won’t give legal advice, they can advise you on how to answer the questions accurately. You may need to call the SSA office ahead of time and make an appointment.

If you’re working with a lawyer for the application process, they should do the heavy lifting for you. They can either get your case information and apply on your behalf, or walk you through each step as you apply on your own.

Learn more about what a disability lawyer can actually do for you.


How should I prepare my application in North Carolina?

The Social Security disability application can take hours to prepare, so it’s helpful to understand what you need before you start. If you’re working with a lawyer, they can request your medical information on your behalf and make sure you’re including everything you need.

  • Collect your records. This includes medical records, work history, education records, bank account information, and other documents. The SSA will need as much medical documentation related to your diagnosis as possible, which requires you to work closely with your medical providers so you have the most accurate information. Medical evidence can include specific tests — such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or lab results — but also treatment plans and doctors notes on your diagnosis.

  • Fill out and submit the application. Set aside some time to fill out and submit the application. There are dozens of pages of forms and they may take hours to complete properly. It’s also critical to make sure that you’re consistent with your answers between forms since the SSA will look for any inconsistencies.

  • Follow-up with the SSA right after you submit. It’s a good idea to confirm the SSA has received your application, since they receive so many throughout the year. Ask for confirmation they’ve received it and are processing it.

  • Quickle respond to any requests from the SSA. The SSA may request additional information or documentation throughout the process. For example, they may want a note from your doctor. Submit everything as soon as possible to avoid delaying the process.

Getting help with the application

The best way to get help with your application is by working with a lawyer. They can ensure you’re filling out the application correctly, gather your medical records for you, and follow up with the SSA throughout. (If you’d like more advice on how to fill out the initial application, or how you can find the right lawyer, Atticus can help out for free.)

What happens after you apply for disability?

Most applicants must go through a multi-step appeal process before they can get benefits. While it’s possible to win your case from the initial application, about 70% are rejected and have to file for reconsideration. Even after re-submitting, about 91% of reconsiderations are also rejected. Claimants can then request a hearing in front of a judge. This stage has the highest approval rate at just over 50%. (Your odds of winning also increase threefold if you work with a disability lawyer.)

For more information, try our guides on your chances of winning a disability appeal and what to expect at a hearing.


Find a top disability lawyer in North Carolina.

How long does it take to get disability benefits in North Carolina? 

Most disability applicants can expect to wait a couple of years before they start receiving benefits. Not every application is the same but in 2022 the average time to receive an initial decision was 6.1 months (184 days). The average person who filed for a reconsideration could expect to wait another 4.9 months (147 days) for a decision. Then the process of waiting for a hearing would add another year or more.

The table below shows the waiting time from request date to hearing date, by office in North Carolina.

Hearing office

Wait time

Charlotte

12 months

Fayetteville

14 months

Greensboro

14 months

Raleigh

17.5 months

Adding all these times and assuming that you file your paperwork and respond to any SSA requests, the entire process to get disability benefits in North Carolina averages 2 years and 1 month. That’s 25.3 months from applying for the first time until you can actually start getting payments.

As you can see, it’s a long and drawn out process. Unfortunately, there also aren’t many ways to speed up the process since most of it relies on SSA processing times. Your best two options are to respond to any SSA document requests as soon as possible, and to work with a good disability lawyer to maximize your chances of success the first time you go through the process.

Related: How to Find a Good Disability Lawyer Near You


How much are disability benefits in North Carolina?

The exact amount of your disability check will depend on your personal work history and income, but there are some numbers you should be aware of.

Estimate your disability benefit amount in just a few steps

We'll use the Social Security Administration's formula to estimate your monthly benefit.

Average
monthly check

$1,489

Average SSDI payments in North Carolina

The average monthly benefit for disabled workers in North Carolina is $1,359.17, slightly above the nationwide average according to the most recent SSA data. The maximum possible SSDI payment for 2024 is $3,822 per month.

It’s important to note the maximum payment amount is set by law and is the same for all applicants, regardless of your medical condition.

You can learn what your potential benefit amount is and your work-history eligibility by signing up for an SSA.gov account and reviewing your information:

  • Visit SSA.gov

  • Click “mySocialSecurity”

  • Create an account using your Social Security number

  • Scroll down to the section titled “Disability”

Average SSI payments in North Carolina

The maximum amount you can receive per month from SSI in 2024 is $943. How much you get is that maximum amount minus the value of your other income. According to the latest data from the SSA, the average SSI payment for blind and disabled people in North Carolina was $609.14 in December 2022.


How to find a disability lawyer in North Carolina

Finding a good disability lawyer is an important piece in the puzzle of getting disability benefits. A good lawyer can prevent critical missteps that slow down the process or keep you from getting benefits altogether. Consider the following criteria during your search:

  • Primary area of practice: Confirm the lawyer specializes in disability cases.

  • Reviews: Read reviews of the lawyer and keep an eye out for patterns in the reviews, such as “never calls me back” or “doesn’t show up.” These could be red flags.

  • Location: Look for a lawyer who practices in your region regularly since they’re more likely to know the habits of judges in your hearing office. However, working remotely with someone won’t hurt your case as long as they’re still a good lawyer.

  • Years practicing disability law: Ideally you want a lawyer who’s been practicing for years. They’re more likely to be familiar with cases like yours and it’s easier to vet someone who has a long work history. A new attorney may still help you get benefits, but it’s harder to vet them.

Finding a good lawyer can take time. If you’d like to be matched with a lawyer who’s a fit for your claim, Atticus can help. Start with our eligibility quiz to confirm whether you could qualify for benefits, and then we can match you with an experienced lawyer if you want one. Our services are free and you only have to pay the lawyer if you win benefits.

Ready to get benefits today?

Common questions about disability in North Carolina

How do I qualify for disability in North Carolina?

To qualify for disability you need to have a condition that prevents you from working for at least a year. You’ll also need to meet certain work history requirements (for SSDI) or be within certain income limits (for SSI). For more on these requirements, read our full write up here.

What conditions qualify for disability in North Carolina?

Any condition that will prevent you from working for a year or more can qualify for disability benefits. Some of the most common conditions include musculoskeletal disorders, mental disorders, nervous system diseases, and circulatory system diseases. See our full list of conditions that qualify here.

How long does it take to get approved for disability in North Carolina?

It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in North Carolina. Most people who apply are initially rejected, and need to appeal this decision. If you appeal and go to a hearing, the process takes around two years on average. Read more: How Long It Takes to Get Approved for Disability Benefits

How much does disability pay in North Carolina?

The average SSDI payment in North Carolina is $1,359.17 per month. The average SSI payment is $609.14 per month. What you’ll earn is dependent on your income, or the amount you’ve historically paid into the Social Security program. Read more on what amount you can expect.

How should I prepare my disability application in North Carolina?

Answer the application questions truthfully, consistently, and succinctly. You should also ensure that you gather and submit all your medical records with your application. The SSA paperwork can be complicated, so our legal team has written a full guide to the application here.

Does North Carolina have a state disability program?

No, North Carolina does not have a state disability program. Only five states (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island) have a state program. Residents of North Carolina can apply for federal disability programs (SSDI and SSI). Read more about SSDI and SSI here.


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Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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