South Carolina Disability Benefits: How to Qualify, Apply, and Get Approved
January 25, 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.
If your health conditions keep you from working, consider filing for disability benefits. Social Security data from 2022 shows that about 187,500 South Carolina residents receive disability benefits. And while the process of filing for disability in South Carolina can be long and overwhelming at times, the benefits can provide much-needed financial relief for you or your family.
To get you started on the right foot, we’ll walk you through the steps of applying for disability in South Carolina and what to expect through each phase.
What South Carolina disability program should I apply for?
South Carolina does not have its own disability program, though there are several federal and private disability programs available to residents.
The South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN) does offer certain care and employment services (learn more about DDSN services), but if you can’t work and need help paying your monthly bills, consider one of the options below:
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): SSDI is a federal program for Americans who worked for years but can no longer work due to an injury or disability. Most citizens pay into Social Security through taxes once they begin working and the amount you receive for monthly disability benefits depends on the number of years you worked and your income.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI is another federal program available to Americans who can’t work due to disability. However, this program is an option if you’ve never worked or haven’t worked in a number of years. It’s also needs-based, and you can only qualify if you meet certain income requirements. You can apply for SSI through the same application as SSDI, so applying for both at the same time is often a good idea.
Private disability insurance: If you purchased a short-term or long-term disability insurance policy before you became injured or disabled, you may be eligible for monthly payments. Whether you purchased this plan on your own or through your employer, you’ll likely apply for benefits through the insurance company. The amount of your payout depends on the terms of your policy. Even if you have a private long-term policy, the insurer may require you to apply for SSDI as well.
Veterans disability benefits: For those who served in the military and sustained an injury that left you unable to work, you can apply for disability benefits through the office of Veterans Affairs. It is possible to receive VA disability benefits and Social Security disability at the same time. Learn more about how Atticus can help you get VA benefits.
For the rest of this guide, we’ll go into detail with the SSDI and SSI programs, since they’re the most widely available and the ones most South Carolinians qualify for. These are the programs referred to when we talk about “applying for disability.”
Qualifying for disability in South Carolina
Approval for disability benefits is based on having a qualifying medical condition, your work history, and your income. SSDI and SSI both have the same medical requirements, though they have different income and work requirements.
SSDI qualifications in South Carolina
To qualify for SSDI, you must meet three criteria:
You’re under 67 years old
Your disability not only keeps you from working, but it will last for at least one more year or it’s a terminal condition.
You’ve earned enough work credits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). Check your work credits by making a free account at SSA.gov. Most people qualify if they’ve worked and paid taxes for at least five of the last 10 years.
What medical conditions qualify for disability in South Carolina?
You may qualify for disability if you have an injury or other health condition that will keep you from working for at least a year or is expected to lead to your death. Many conditions that are serious, won’t qualify if they’re manageable and don’t impact your ability to hold a job.
Endocrine nutritional and metabolic diseases: 2.3%
Infectious and parasitic diseases: 1.1%
Mental disorders: 28%
Diseases of the blood and blood forming organs: 0.4%
Diseases of the circulatory system: 8.1%
Diseases of the digestive system: 1.4%
Diseases of the genito-urinary system: 2.0%
Diseases of the musculo-skeletal system: 34.7%
Diseases of the nervous system: 9.8%
Diseases of the respiratory system: 2.9%
Diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue: 0.3%
Unknown condition: 1.8%
The most common mental health conditions were:
Intellectual disorders: 15,870 people
Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders: 15,865 people
Other mental disorders: 6,952 people
How to apply for disability in South Carolina
Applying for Social Security disability benefits requires filling out the main application (Form SSA-16) and supplementary forms about your previous jobs (work history report) and how your medical condition affects your ability to do various activities (function report).
How do I submit an application?
You can submit your disability application in three ways:
Over the phone by calling the SSA at (800) 772-1213
In-person at your local SSA office
If you’re not applying with a disability lawyer, we recommend you apply at an SSA office. While they won’t provide legal advice, they'll guide you through the questions and answers so you can answer as accurately as possible. You can usually call the SSA office ahead of time for an appointment.
If you are working with a lawyer, they’ll take care of a good bit of the work for you. They can either fill out the application for you or guide you through how you should answer the questions.
How should I prepare my application in South Carolina?
Set aside multiple hours to complete the application and submit it to the SSA. You may also need to spend some time gathering paperwork and medical documents before you can even fill out the application. If you’re working with a disability lawyer, they can help get everything in order.
Below are the general application steps you’ll take:
Collect your documentation. This includes medical records, work history, education records, bank account information, and other documents for your application. The SSA will need as much medical documentation related to your diagnosis as possible, such as specific test results, treatment plans, and evidence that you’ve followed doctor-ordered treatments.
Complete the application. When filling out and submitting the application, be sure to submit all the supporting documentation too. Be as specific as possible about your limitations and pain level while remaining truthful. Also pay attention to how you answer questions between forms. The questions on different forms are often similar and the SSA may flag your application if your answers contradict each other.
Follow-up with the SSA: Confirm with the SSA that they have received your application and are processing it.
Respond to any SSA requests ASAP. The SSA may request additional documentation from you, like information from your doctor, test results, or other proof of your condition. It’s important to respond as quickly as possible, or the SSA will take longer to process your application.
Getting help with the application
A disability lawyer can guide you through the application process and ensure you’re filling out everything in the way that the SSA wants. Atticus can help you find a lawyer (for free) if you’d like more advice on how to fill out the initial application. (You also don’t have to pay the lawyer unless you win benefits.)
What happens after I apply?
It’s possible to win your case through your initial application, but most applicants (70%) are rejected, and have to go through multiple appeal steps before getting approved.
After an initial rejection, the next step is to file for reconsideration. About 91% of reconsiderations are still rejected. Next you can file an appeal, which gives you a chance to attend a court hearing where you can state your case in front of a judge. The hearing stage has the highest chances of approval. In 2022, judges approved about 54% of cases. Applicants with a lawyer were all three times more likely to win disability benefits.
How long does it take to get disability benefits in South Carolina?
A disability applicant from South Carolina can expect to wait more than two years before they start receiving disability benefits.
In 2022, it took an average of 6.1 months (184 days) to receive an initial decision after applying. But most people need to file for a reconsideration, which took another 6.1 months (183 days) to process, on average. From there, getting a hearing took another 10 to 16.5 months. The judge may then take a couple of months to issue their final decision. All told, the process from start to finish will take a minimum of 23.8 months for most people.
Here are the average times you can expect to wait to get a disability hearing in South Carolina:
Wait time for a hearing
Unfortunately, there aren’t many ways to speed up the process. SSA processing times are mostly out of your control. However, it’s critical to answer any SSA requests for additional information as quickly as possible. Failing to submit something will only lead to further delays.
How much are disability benefits in South Carolina?
How much you get from a disability check depends on personal factors, including your work history and income. Your medical condition doesn’t affect how much you get.
Average SSDI payments in South Carolina
The maximum SSDI payment for 2023 is $3,627 per month, but the average monthly benefit for disabled workers in South Carolina is $1,387.31 according to the most recent SSA data.
You can see your potential disability payment and work-history eligibility by signing up for a mySSA account online:
Create an account using your Social Security number
The maximum amount you can receive from SSI per month in 2023 is $914. The average SSI payment in South Carolina is $608.66 per month.
How much you get from SSI will depend on your other income. The SSA will subtract your other income from the maximum benefits of $914 to calculate your monthly SSI check.
How to find a disability lawyer in South Carolina
Getting disability benefits in South Carolina is not an easy or short process, but a good lawyer can make the process easier and more efficient. They can help you avoid mistakes in your application that may slow down the process or lead to a denial. They‘ll also help you track updates and deadlines as you move through the various stages of application.
If you’re trying to find an attorney in South Carolina on your own, consider the following with your search:
Primary area of practice: Does the law firm specialize in disability cases or at least have a lawyer who only works on Social Security disability?
Reviews: Online reviews of a lawyer are a great resource. But instead of just looking for good or bad reviews, look for patterns. For example, multiple reviews that say the lawyer “never called me back” or “didn’t show up to my hearing” are red flags and signs you should avoid that lawyer.
Location: Working with a local lawyer may be preferable, but Social Security disability law is the same across the country and a lawyer who you only meet virtually isn’t necessarily bad. More important is how well the lawyer communicates with you.
Time practicing: A lawyer with a long work history is likely to be more familiar with cases like yours. While a newer lawyer can still help you, it’s harder to vet how good an attorney is if they don’t have much experience.
Finding a good lawyer can take time. To help you avoid that stress, Atticus has vetted lawyers from across the country and can match with a lawyer who’s a great fit for your case, for free. Take our free quiz to get matched with a qualified lawyer near you.
Ready to get benefits today?
Frequently asked questions about benefits in South Carolina
How do I qualify for disability in South 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 South 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 South Carolina?
It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in South 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 South Carolina?
The average SSDI payment in South Carolina is $1,387.31 per month. The average SSI payment is $608.66 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 South 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 South Carolina have a state disability program?
No, South Carolina doesn't have a state disability program. Only five states (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island) have a state program. Residents of South Carolina can apply for federal disability programs (SSDI and SSI). Read more about SSDI and SSI here.
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