Social Security Disability Insurance in the State of Pennsylvania
Because of the vast industrial activity, Pennsylvania ranks the second highest in toxic air pollution and comes in third for global warming pollution from power plants. Air pollution has been linked to a higher risk of heart and lung problems which correlates with how circulatory and respiratory system issues rank among the top 10 on Pennsylvania’s disability beneficiary list. Pennsylvania is among the top 5 states for the most number of disabled people receiving benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.
If you have a disability which is likely to last one year or more and you are living in the state of Pennsylvania you may be able to qualify for SSDI if your disability prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful employment. In Pennsylvania about 30% of the applicants are approved for SSDI benefits. The top two diagnostics on the SSDI beneficiary list in Pennsylvania are disabilities that stem from a mental disorder (34%) and musculoskeletal system diseases (29%).
Filing a Social Security Disability Insurance Claim in Pennsylvania
A little over 13% of the population of Pennsylvania (for all ages) has a disability. Under the SSDI program, only those who suffer from a severe disability that has lasted or is likely to last a year or more and meets or is severe enough to one of the medical conditions laid out in Social Security Administration’s Blue Book can qualify for SSDI benefits. To qualify, you also need to have earned enough work credits under the Social Security program. If your condition meets the exact medical conditions in the Blue Book and you provide all the supporting medical evidence to the SSA, the chances of you being awarded SSDI benefits swiftly are high. However, not many meet exact listings in the Blue Book. Such people still have a good chance of receiving SSDI benefits if they can prove that the severity of their medical condition prevents them from getting substantial work as defined by the SSA. In such cases, a medical vocation allowance may be awarded. To determine whether you can qualify to receive a medical vocation allowance the SSA will need to look at the last 15 years of your work records, assess your residual functional capacity (or how much you are able to work), and study your case history. The SSDI determination process can be long and drawn out. Therefore, how well you understand the Social Security disability claims process is crucial to winning your claim.
Click here to know more about the SSDI application process or watch the informative video below.
The procedure for starting the SSDI claims application process is the same in every state. In the state of Pennsylvania there are 49 Social Security offices. You can apply online, by phone, or in person at a Social Security office near you.
Once your application is received it is assigned to a disability examiner working in a state-level agency known as the Disability Determination Services. The disability examiner will determine whether your case qualifies for SSDI benefits based on evidence you provide and after conducting a disability application interview, either in person or on the phone. In Pennsylvania, the average time it takes for a disability examiner to make a decision is between 3 to 4 months but this really depends on the number of backlogs in their system.
On average, only 31% of SSDI claims are awarded benefits at the initial application level in Pennsylvania. The majority of the claimants who are denied benefits will need to make at least one or two appeals to receive the SSDI benefits they rightly deserve. The appeals process usually consists of four stages but Pennsylvania is testing a new procedure. The first level of appeal, called the reconsideration stage, has been temporarily suspended. SSDI claimants move immediately to the second stage of appeal which is:
- The Court Hearing: In Pennsylvania, the approval rate at the court hearing level is 56% as against the national average of 59%. Here, your case is reviewed by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who has more freedom than state disability examiners. You are allowed to bring in medical expert witnesses and also submit additional evidence that would bolster your case. Needless to say, you have a far better chance of winning SSDI benefits at this stage than at any other stage in the appeals process.
- The Appeals Council: The Council will determine whether the decision made by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) was fairly determined.
- Federal Review: The last and final stage of appeal is the federal court. Very few venture towards a Federal Review mainly because it is a slow and expensive process. Your advocate or advisor may counsel you to file a new SSDI claim and start the claims process all over again.
Your appeal should be filed with the SSA within 60 days of the date of the denial notice. If you did not have a legal representative before it would be in your best interest to have one during the appeals process. An experienced advocate knows the type of medical evidence needed to improve your chances of winning, is familiar with the social security disability claims process, can thoroughly prepare you for your court hearing, and relieve you of the stress of trying to represent yourself.
The single, most common reason for delay in processing your claims is the time it takes for a social security disability examiner to retrieve your medical records because of incomplete information provided on the forms. You can help facilitate a faster decision by making sure you’ve filled out your forms properly and have provided accurate, detailed information.
Contact us to talk to a representative who is specialized in SSDI claims and could be your best resource to fill out the application. Hurry! Approval of SSDI benefits can take several months or more so the best time to apply for SSDI benefits is as soon as you become disabled.
Let us help you get the benefits you deserve. Fill out the form to your right and get professional advocates to help you win!
Helpful Resources for those with Disabilities in Pennsylvania
If you’re not qualified for Social Security Disability Insurance or would like additional support, the Pennsylvania State administration offers several other programs to help people with different disabilities. Follow the links below to know more about these helpful programs:
- LINK assists adults with disabilities who need help with the activities of daily living.
- Vocational Rehabilitation Services helps those with hearing, physical, learning, cognitive, metabolic, mood, and behavioral impairments get the skills they need for gainful employment. They provide diagnostic services, vocational evaluation, counselling, and training.
- SNAP Benefits: This federal program may help seniors, low-income workers, those who are disabled, and others put nutritious food on the table. Benefits are given every month through an electronic benefits card which can be used at authorized local food stores.