Just 3% of Keystone State residents are Pennsylvania disability beneficiaries under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. Another 2.5% of the population currently get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments each month. If you’re unable to work for at least 12 months for health reasons, then you may qualify for Pennsylvania disability. Learn eligibility requirements for both programs, average pay amounts and more below.
Two Ways to Get Approved for Pennsylvania Disability Benefits
There are two different federal disability programs that pay monthly benefits to eligible blind and disabled applicants. Both use the same medical screening criteria when you apply, but that’s where the similarities end. The Social Security Administration pays Pennsylvania disability benefits to eligible claimants through one of these two programs:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
The good news is, Pennsylvania disability claimants can use the same form to apply for both programs. Just check a box on the application to ensure you’re screened for both SSI and SSDI benefits when you apply!
Qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits
The first program, SSDI, provides insurance coverage that workers pay the premiums for with every paycheck. Anyone who’s earned at least 40 work credits working full-time and paid Social Security taxes may apply. Keep reading to learn whether you may qualify for Pennsylvania disability benefits through the SSDI program.
1. Who Can Apply for Pennsylvania Disability Under the SSDI Program?
Here’s how to tell if you’re eligible to apply for Pennsylvania disability benefits under this federal program:
- Have you worked 5 in the last 10 years at jobs where you paid Social Security payroll taxes? Only people that worked long enough and in recent years may qualify for Pennsylvania disability benefits through the SSDI program. If you’re out of work for more than five years, you insurance coverage lapses and you cannot qualify for SSDI.
- Do you expect your health problems will stop you from working for 12 months or longer? Your medical condition must last for at least one year or result in your death to qualify for SSDI. If your symptoms improve enough for you to start working any sooner, the SSA automatically denies your Pennsylvania disability claim.
- Have you seen a doctor to treat your medical issue regularly in the past 90 days? If not, your Pennsylvania disability claim requires you to attend a Disability Determination Services (DDS) exam. This means the SSA appoints a DDS doctor to independently confirm you cannot work due to health problems. If you haven’t seen a doctor recently, we strongly recommend you talk to a lawyer before applying for Pennsylvania disability!
- Are you at least 18, but younger than full retirement age and not yet drawing Social Security? SSDI is an insurance program that working-age people pay for through their FICA taxes. Once you reach your FRA, SSDI automatically converts into regular Social Security retirement. That typically happens sometime between your 66th and 67th birthdays, but it depends entirely on your birth month and year.
Answering “yes” to every question above makes you more likely to qualify for the SSDI program’s Pennsylvania disability benefits. If you said “no” to anything, skip directly to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) section now.
2. When Does Your First Payment Arrive After Your SSDI Claim’s Approved?
The SSA takes 3-5 months to review every SSDI application for Pennsylvania disability benefits. There’s also a mandatory five-month waiting period for SSDI claimants before they can get their first payment. Unfortunately, 2 in every 5 Pennsylvania disability applicants get denied SSDI for basic paperwork mistakes. However, having a lawyer file your application doubles your chances for approval the first time you apply. Pennsylvania disability applications take 361 days, on average, to process. That’s almost a year! A Social Security lawyer can ensure your application’s error-free and gather all the evidence you’ll need to prove your claim. Plus, these lawyers work on contingency, so they won’t take you as a client unless they think you’ll win. Legally, they cannot charge you anything for claim help until after you’re approved for Pennsylvania disability benefits.
If you apply on your own, you’ll probably wait at least 18 months to get your first payment after approval. That’s because you’ll likely only win benefits after you appeal. Today, you’ll wait about 12 months to get your Pennsylvania disability appeals case heard. How soon does your first payment arrive after your SSDI claim’s approved? Six months from your application date is the soonest the SSA will deposit your first Pennsylvania disability check. Without legal assistance, you’ll probably have to wait longer than a year to appeal your case after a denial. Pennsylvania disability claimants in Philadelphia or Elkins Park have the fastest appeal wait times (7.5 months). If you live in Johnstown, however, it’ll take you at least one year to appeal your case.
3. How Much Can Pennsylvania Disability Claimants Receive In Monthly SSDI?
The maximum Pennsylvania disability payment available through the SSDI program n 2022 is $3,345/month. However, the average SSDI payment for disabled workers nationwide is $1,358/month. The SSA averages your highest paychecks earned over a 35-year period to figure out your monthly payment amount. However, your monthly payment may change in years that include a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase.
4. Once My SSDI Claim’s Approved, Are Pennsylvania Disability Payments Permanent?
Pennsylvania disability payments don’t last forever once the SSA approves your claim. Instead, the agency re-confirms your disability status every 3, 5, or 7 years. You’ll need to keep proving you cannot work until you reach your full retirement age. Once you pass your FRA birthday, Pennsylvania disability payments automatically convert to into Social Security retirement. The amount the SSA deposits into your bank account won’t change, and you don’t need to complete any paperwork. That’s why people aged 66 and up cannot qualify for Pennsylvania disability payments through the SSDI program.
Bonus Tip: Buy copies of your full medical records from your doctor while applying for Pennsylvania disability benefits. Doctor’s visit receipts, itemized statements and credit card bills won’t provide enough evidence to support your claim!
Qualifying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits
If you’re 65 or older, didn’t pay Social Security taxes at work or were a stay-at-home parent, apply for SSI. SSI is a federal assistance program that helps only the poorest disabled, senior and blind Americans each month. To qualify for Pennsylvania disability under the SSI program, you must have little to no income or financial assets. Americans at least 65 years old can qualify for SSI based on their age alone.
1. SSI & SSDI Use The Same Medical Eligibility Requirements
If you’re blind or meet the SSA’s definition of “disabled,” then you’re medically eligible for either program. Both offer long-term Pennsylvania disability benefits to those who cannot work due to medical problems. However, it’s much easier to qualify for SSI after your 65th birthday.
2. You Need Very Limited Income and Almost No Assets To Qualify for SSI
You must earn or receive less than $1,350/month to qualify for Pennsylvania disability benefits under the federal SSI program. This includes money you earn from working as well as any passive monthly income. According to the SSA, passive income includes things like interest earned on savings accounts, alimony and child support payments. Eligible SSI applicants also need less than $2,000 in financial assets to qualify for Pennsylvania disability. This means anything you can sell for cash, like jewelry, stocks, bonds, your 401(k) or IRA funds, etc. However, the SSA won’t count certain items toward your total asset limit, including:
- Your house and the land it’s on (only if you own your residence)
- One vehicle for your household’s transportation needs (car, truck, motorcycle, boat, etc.)
- Your wedding ring, furniture, clothing and other daily living items (appliances, bedding, towels, etc.)
Own too many things or have more than $2,000 in your bank account? Then your SSI claim’s automatically denied. For eligible couples, you cannot have more than $3,000 in financial assets. The monthly income limit for couples who apply for SSI is no more than $1,350/month.
3. The Maximum Monthly SSI Pennsylvania Disability Payment Is $841 for Individuals, $1,261 for Couples
Keep in mind the SSA looks for anything that may disqualify you from meeting the SSI program’s financial requirements. Living rent-free with family or have a friend that drives you to doctor’s visits? The SSA counts those things against you and treats them like free money. Tempted to lie or hide things from the SSA in order to get your claim approved? Please don’t do this. The SSA checks on SSI recipients every three years to re-confirm their disability status. If they find out you lied, expect an SSI overpayment letter in the mail. That means you’ll have to pay back any SSI money the SSA says you received in error. They can withhold your Pennsylvania disability payments until you’ve repaid all the money you owe.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
You’re nearly 3x more likely to get benefits if a Pennsylvania disability lawyer files your application for you. An experienced Social Security attorney can call you right away and answer your claim questions free of charge. You can get a free, no-obligation, confidential consultation before starting your Pennsylvania disability application. All Pennsylvania disability lawyers work on contingency. That means if the SSA won’t approve your application, you owe that lawyer $0 for helping you. And if you do get benefits, then you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.