Requirements for Disability Benefits in Pennsylvania

Statistics estimate that about 13.4% of Pennsylvanians have a disability.  For some, their health conditions are easy to manage — but others have impairments which are so severe that employment becomes completely impossible.  When a medical condition negatively impacts your ability to earn income, the financial consequences can be devastating.  Fortunately, you may be able to qualify for social security disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The SSA offers monthly benefits to disabled people and family members of all ages, whether an applicant is elderly, middle-aged, a teenager, or even an infant.  The monthly totals range depending on factors like household size and financial need, but in many instances can amount to more than $1,000 per month.

Unfortunately, it can often be extremely difficult to qualify without the assistance of an experienced disability benefits attorney.  Statistically speaking, well over half of all Pennsylvania claimants are denied after making their initial application, and the denial rate skyrockets to about 90% during the Reconsideration stage of appeals.  While it may be difficult to get a claim approved, it isn’t impossible — but you do need a basic understanding of the eligibility criteria and application process.

Do I Qualify for Disability Benefits?

Disability benefits are contingent upon disability.  This may sound too obvious to be worth mentioning, but actually, the SSA uses very strict guidelines to define disability, and the majority of denials are attributed to medical rather than technical reasons.  While you may feel positive that you are impaired, the SSA may come to a different conclusion based on its own set of stringent standards.  Therefore, you can prepare a much stronger claim if you understand SSA evaluation.

In order to be approved, your impairment will need to meet the following criteria:

  1. If your condition is easy to suppress or workaround, you will not be found disabled by the SSA.  Your condition must be severe to the extent that it prohibits you from working.  On a related note, you should not be earning more than $1,070 per month.
  2. Ideally, your condition would (1) be found in the SSA’s “Blue Book,” or Listing of Impairments, and (2) match the severity standards listed for your condition. However, even if your condition doesn’t exactly match the severity standards — or if it isn’t included in the Listing at all — you can still qualify through other channels (e.g. Compassionate Allowances, medical-vocational allowances).
  3. Your condition is so severe that, not only can you not do what you used to, you also cannot find an alternative position.

Doctor with Patient - Requirements for Disability Benefits in Pennsylvania

How to Apply for Disability in Pennsylvania

The SSA is a federal organization.  However, in order to more rapidly process the sheer volume of applications, the SSA works with smaller organizations in each state.  In Pennsylvania, the SSA works with the Bureau of Disability Determination (BDD), which is part of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

The BDD reports evaluating about 145,000 claims every year, or approximately 400 claims every day.  These claims, which are sent to the BDD after receiving a basic review by the SSA, represent both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  While these two programs have different eligibility standards, with SSI based on financial need whereas SSDI is based on earning work credits, both grant assistance to Pennsylvanians who cannot work because they are impaired.

There are five BDD offices spread throughout the state to serve different counties.  For residents of Eastern Pennsylvania, there are two offices which might be appropriate:

If you are a resident of Bucks County, Chester County, Dauphin County, Montgomery County, or Philadelphia County, call or visit the BDD office at:

1171 S. Cameron Street
Harrisburg, PA 17104-2594
(717) 783-3620

If you are a resident of Berks County, Lehigh County, or Northampton County, call or visit the BDD office at:

264 Highland Park Blvd.
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18703
(570) 824-8971

In general, there are three ways you can apply for benefits in Pennsylvania:

  1. You can apply online through the SSA’s website.
  2. You can visit a field office to apply in person.  There are dozens of field offices scattered throughout the state, so you should use the SSA’s field office locator to find the closest and most convenient office.
  3. You can apply over the phone by calling the SSA at (800) 772-1213.

If you’re interested in getting benefits for yourself or your family, our experienced Pennsylvania disability lawyers can help.  For a free and private consultation, call the law offices of Young, Marr & Associates right away at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania, or contact us online today.

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