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.
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:
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.”
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.
To qualify for SSDI, you must meet three criteria:
You can find more on SSDI eligibility here.
To qualify for SSI, you must:
Read more about qualifying for SSI here.
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.
Our guide to the conditions that qualify for disability benefits can help you find your specific condition. Below are the most common types of medical conditions among South Carolina residents who are already receiving disability:
The most common mental health conditions were:
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).
You can submit your disability application in three ways:
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.
Related: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Disability Application
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:
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.)
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.
Learn more about the chances of winning a disability appeal.
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 4.9 months (147 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 (in months)
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 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.
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:
Learn more about how your SSDI check is calculated.
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.
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:
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.
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