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What Qualifies You for Disability in Pennsylvania?

When you apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits in Pennsylvania, the state’s Bureau of Disability Determination (BDD) reviews your application and determines whether you are eligible. The Bureau processes an average of 145,000 applications each year. With that volume of applicants, it can take a long time to receive an answer for your application.

If you believe you may be entitled to disability benefits, it helps to understand:

  • The types of conditions that qualify for SSD benefits in Pennsylvania
  • How to apply
  • What you can do to increase your chances of getting benefits

At Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill, Co., LPA, our Pennsylvania disability attorneys have more than 200 years of combined legal experience helping disabled workers seek the benefits they need to support themselves and their families. Contact us today to learn how we can help you navigate every stage of the disability application process. Take advantage of a free consultation with a knowledgeable PA Social Security disability lawyer.

What Things Automatically Qualify You for Disability?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses strict criteria to determine who qualifies to receive disability benefits. However, some conditions automatically qualify patients for SSD payments.

The SSA’s Compassionate Allowances (CAL) program reduces waiting time for applications by maintaining a list of conditions that meet statutory standards for qualifying disabilities. Having a medical condition on the List of CAL Conditions may provide for expedited processing of your claim.

The list contains more than 200 conditions, including serious medical issues such as cancer, brain disorders, and rare children’s disorders. Some conditions that could automatically qualify for your benefits include:

  • Advanced cancer
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Need for organ transplants
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease

How Do You Qualify for Disability in PA?

If you don’t qualify for disability benefits based on a medical condition on the Compassionate Allowance list, you must demonstrate that:

  • You have a qualifying medical disability. A qualifying disability prevents you from performing the work you did in the past and keeps you from adapting to new types of work. The disability has lasted a year or is expected to last at least a year or be a terminal condition.
  • You have enough work credits. You earn work credits by working and paying taxes into the Social Security system. The amount of work needed to gain work credits varies from year to year. The number of credits you need varies based on your age when you apply for benefits.

A disability benefits attorney at Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill, Co., LPA can help you gather the information needed and prepare an application for SSD benefits.

Can My Doctor Put Me on Disability?

Your doctor’s diagnosis that you are disabled is not sufficient by itself to qualify you for disability benefits. However, your doctor’s support is an essential element of your disability benefits claim.

You can help your doctor as you apply for disability benefits by:

  • Keeping your doctor’s limitations in mind – Most doctors have limited time with each patient during appointments. To make sure your doctor prioritizes your Social Security Disability Insurance application, you will need to be explicit about what you need from the doctor.
  • Scheduling an appointment before you apply for benefits – Many disability benefits applications are denied because of a lack of medical evidence. It’s best to have all the needed information ready when you apply.
  • Preparing for your appointment in advance – Before you go to your appointment, write a detailed description of your condition and a list of your physical or cognitive limitations. Without this list, you may forget to describe every detail to your doctor. Your doctor may not report certain information to the SSA if it isn’t in your medical records.
  • Collaborating with your doctor during your appointment – During your appointment, tell your doctor that you intend to apply for SSDI benefits. Don’t assume that the doctor understands the application process. Provide them with your written list of limitations. Let the doctor know you need help providing accurate medical information to the SSA. Ask the doctor to write a statement to the SSA linking your limitations to specific evidence in your medical records.

What Benefits Do You Receive with Disability in PA?

According to the SSA, the average disabled worker received approximately $1,234 per month in 2019. Most recipients receive roughly 40 percent of their average pre-retirement income in monthly benefits.

If you qualify for benefits, your monthly payments are calculated based on several factors, including your age, your work history, and your lifetime earnings. Your family may be entitled to benefits based on your qualifying work history, too. You can use the SSA’s Benefit Calculators to estimate your potential benefit amounts.

Recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are eligible for Medicare coverage after 24 months of claiming benefits. Those who suffer from certain severe conditions may be eligible for Medicare coverage right away.

How Do I Apply for Disability in PA?

To apply for disability benefits in Pennsylvania, you can apply online, in person at a local Social Security office, or over the phone by calling 1-800-772-1213. To start your application, you will need to fill out a Form SSA-16 and provide the SSA with your medical records and other supporting documents. This page describes the information and documents you may need to provide.

The SSA will review your application to ensure you meet basic eligibility requirements. Then they will forward your application to Pennsylvania’s BDD. The BDD may schedule you for an independent medical examination to determine your eligibility.

If your application is denied, you have the right to file an appeal to request further review. You must submit your request in writing within 60 days of the date when you receive your denial letter. Most applicants for disability benefits receive denial letters initially and must file an appeal to pursue benefits.

Contact a PA Disability Attorney Today

The PA disability attorneys of Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill, Co., LPA understand the ins and outs of the disability system and the appeals process. We are committed to fighting for the benefits you need. Contact us today to discuss the details of your disability case in a free initial case review.