Erie, PA SSD Lawyer
Individuals who become seriously ill or injured and cannot return to work are sometimes eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. However, these benefits are not always easy to claim. The vast majority of applications, approximately 70 percent, are denied during the initial application phase. Working with an expert SSD attorney in PA can help you build the strongest claim possible and give you a better chance of securing the benefits you need when you’re applying for social security disability.
Overview of the Social Security Disability Process in Erie, PA
The Social Security disability process starts with submitting an application to the Social Security Administration (SSA). This can be done online or at a local Social Security office. In most cases, applicants will receive the initial decision on their application in 75 to 180 days. If the application is denied, applicants can appeal the decision.
The first step in the appeals process in Pennsylvania is a request for reconsideration. This phase involves another person who was not part of the original decision-making process independently reviewing the application. It usually takes approximately 60 to 120 days to receive a decision on the request for reconsideration. If an application is denied during this phase, the next step in the appeal process is to request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. Hearings are generally scheduled 12 to 18 months from the date of the request.
During a hearing, the judge usually asks the applicant about the medical condition they are suffering from. The hearing is sometimes very intimidating for individuals because there is a lot at stake and many people have not appeared in front of a judge before. An Erie SSD lawyer can help prepare applicants for the hearing by explaining the questions that they will be asked and letting them know what to expect during the hearing.
Many applications are approved after the hearing in front of an administrative law judge. When one is not, the applicant has the right to appeal to the Social Security Appeals Council, and then in federal court if their application is still denied.
Determining SSD Eligibility in PA
Benefits are only available for individuals who have suffered an injury or illness and can no longer work. To qualify for benefits, individuals must be considered completely disabled and unable to engage in any type of gainful employment.
The medical condition a person is suffering from must be expected to last for at least one year, or until a person’s death. Physical and mental impairments can both qualify a person to receive SSD. Applicants must present strong evidence to support their claim and acceptable medical techniques must have been used to diagnose the condition. Our Erie social security disability lawyers can help you determine how strong your case is before you file.
How Is Disability Defined?
To receive SSDI benefits, a person must be considered completely disabled, according to the SSA’s definition for disability. Benefits are not available when a disability is short-term or a person is only partially disabled. Instead, the SSA defines a disability as:
- A medical condition that renders a person unable to perform the same type of work they did before becoming disabled,
- The SSA has determined the applicant is unable to perform any other type of work due to their medical condition, and
- The medical condition is expected to last for a minimum of one year, or the medical condition will result in the applicant’s death.
Meeting this definition is not always easy, even when a person’s condition fits the above eligibility requirements. An Erie, PA SSD lawyer can help assemble compelling evidence to show your condition meets these requirements.
Types of Disability Benefits
The SSA provides two different types of benefits for disabled individuals. These are the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Many people think these two programs are the same and often use the terms interchangeably, but they are in fact quite different.
SSDI benefits are only available for people who have worked and that have paid into the Social Security system. This requirement is necessary because the benefits are taken from the Social Security fund.
SSI benefits are needs-based. This means that applicants do not need to show that they have worked a certain number of hours, or that they have paid into Social Security. They must simply show that they have suffered a disability that prevents them from earning a meaningful income and that they have limited resources and income. SSI benefits are paid out of the general tax fund.
It is essential that any disabled individual understands the differences between these two programs. Some people do not qualify for SSDI because of a limited work history. You don’t want to apply for benefits under this program only to discover at the end that you never qualified for them in the first place. Some people qualify under both programs and can submit an application with both programs at the same time. Our knowledgeable Erie social security disability attorneys can evaluate your particular circumstances and advise you about which program to apply to.
The amount of benefits you receive will largely determine the potential amount of any benefits you are awarded. Because the SSDI program is based on your work history, recipients usually receive more in benefits than SSI applicants. The amount of SSI payments is based on a federal standard that adjusts periodically with the cost of living.
Let Our Erie, PA Disability Lawyers Help with Your Claim
If you have suffered a disability and cannot work, SSD benefits can help you pay medical bills, as well as daily expenses. However, these benefits are not always easy to obtain, as the SSD process can be confusing. At Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill, our knowledgeable disability lawyers in Erie, PA can help with your claim. We will assist you with the initial application phase. If your claim has been denied, we will walk you through every step of the appeal process. Call our Erie office today or fill out our online contact form for a free case evaluation.