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What Qualifies You for Social Security Disability in Pennsylvania?

Cancer patient, who may be eligible for SSD, on a wheelchair talking to her doctors.

Social Security Disability (SSD) is a federal program that provides financial assistance to people who have medically diagnosed disabilities that prevent them from working. People who have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a certain number of years become eligible for SSD benefits if they suffer a disabling injury or disease.

The Social Security Administration has strict eligibility requirements for disability benefits. Many people with valid disability claims receive denial letters initially after they submit applications. Our respected SSD lawyers at Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill Co., LPA have helped many disabled people in Pennsylvania appeal denied claims and obtain the SSD benefits they have earned through years of employment.

Below, we’ve outlined the requirements for SSD in Pennsylvania to help you understand whether you may qualify. Contact us for a free initial consultation to learn more.

What Conditions Qualify You for SSD in Pennsylvania?

Any serious medical condition that prevents you from keeping gainful employment for at least a year may qualify you for SSD benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a “Blue Book” that lists common qualifying mental and physical conditions, including:

  • Blood-related conditions such as hemophilia, leukemia, or lymphoma
  • Cancers such as thyroid cancer, esophageal cancer, and small-cell carcinoma
  • Cardiovascular conditions such as coronary heart disease or arrhythmia
  • Digestive tract conditions such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Immune system conditions such as HIV/AIDS, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Kidney and urogenital conditions such as renal failure or prostate disease
  • Mental conditions such as autism, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder
  • Musculoskeletal conditions such as fibromyalgia or osteoarthritis
  • Neurological conditions such as epilepsy, cerebral palsy, or Alzheimer’s
  • Respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Sense- and speech-related conditions such as deafness or blindness
  • Skin conditions such as dermatitis or severe skin trauma from burn injuries
  • Syndromes such as Sjogren’s syndrome or Down syndrome

Keep in mind that just because your ailment is listed in the Blue Book does not automatically entitle you to SSD benefits. The condition must be advanced enough to prevent you from holding gainful employment.

Before you can begin receiving benefits, you must obtain a formal diagnosis from a licensed physician and submit the diagnosis along with your SSD application. In most cases, the SSA requires other medical records and information in addition to the proof of diagnosis. The SSA may have a doctor examine you and provide a medical opinion of whether your condition leaves you unable to work.

How Long Does It Take to Get Approved for Social Security Disability in Pennsylvania?

According to the SSA, it typically takes three to five months to receive an initial decision after you apply for SSD benefits. Data from 2009 to 2018 suggests that only 21 percent of applicants are approved after filing their initial claims.

The Bureau of Disability Determination is a Pennsylvania state agency that assists the SSA in evaluating whether individuals with disabilities in the Keystone State qualify for disability benefits. The Bureau processes approximately 145,000 disability claims a year.

Many first-time applications contain errors or lack a complete employment history or adequate medical information. If this occurs, the SSA may deny the claim. If your initial claim has been denied, you can file a request for reconsideration and include any missing details in your request. The wait time for reconsiderations of initial denials is typically around three to four additional months.

If the SSA still denies your application after reconsideration, your next step will be to request a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ). Depending on the judge’s caseload, the hearing process can take anywhere from eight months to two years.

If the judge does not rule in your favor, you can continue pursuing your benefits claim by filing an appeal with the Appeals Council or, eventually, in federal district court. The length of time it could take the Appeals Council or a federal court to reach a decision will vary but may take up to a year for each appeal.

You can avoid delays by filing a thorough, error-free disability benefits claim with as much supporting documentation as possible. A knowledgeable Pennsylvaia SSD attorney can help you prepare your application and gather the supporting documents needed to increase your chances of receiving a favorable outcome.

Why Your Pennsylvania Social Security Disability Claim Could Be Denied

The following are some of the most common reasons your claim might be denied:

  • You have too much income – If you are still working and earning income when you apply for SSD benefits, your claim may be denied because you are engaged in substantial gainful activity. The maximum monthly income you can earn and still qualify for benefits is $1,310 for non-blind individuals and $2,190 for blind individuals as of 2021.
  • Your application was incomplete – If you failed to include your contact details, address, employment history, or supporting documentation for your medical condition, the SSA may deny your claim because it cannot verify that you qualify for benefits.
  • You have a non-qualifying disability – If your disability is not expected to last at least 12 months or result in your death, it may not be a qualifying condition.
  • You failed to follow your doctor’s treatment plan – If you receive treatment from a licensed physician and fail to follow their treatment recommendations, the SSA will likely deny your claim.
  • You failed to comply with SSA requests – If you refuse to cooperate with the SSA when it asks you to provide additional information or to attend consultative examination appointments, the SSA may reject your application.

How Pennsylvania Disability Attorneys Can Help Your SSD Case

At Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill Co., LPA, our Pennsylvania disability attorneys can support your SSD case by:

  • Providing free consultations about your claim remotely from the comfort of your own home
  • Helping you prepare a complete and error-free SSD application
  • Helping you compile the medical records and other information you need to support your claim for benefits
  • Representing you at SSD hearings and appeals, as necessary
  • Handling your case with a no-win, no-fee guarantee

Contact Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill Co., LPA Today

At Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill Co., LPA, our disability benefits lawyers have more than 200 years of combined experience helping disabled Pennsylvanians seek the full benefits available by law. Contact us today to discuss the details of your Pennsylvania SSD case with a knowledgeable and compassionate attorney during a free case review.