Pennsylvania Disability Benefits: Will You Qualify?

Disability Benefits

Important: We updated this article in July 2023 to make sure all info below is both current and correct. Today, 21% of this state’s residents are the age when they’re most likely to qualify for Pennsylvania disability. But just 5% of Keystone State residents actually get those payments from the Social Security Administration. If your health stops you from working for at least 12 months, then you may qualify for Pennsylvania disability. Learn eligibility requirements for two different federal disability assistance programs, average pay amounts and more below.

You Have Two Ways to Get Pennsylvania Disability Benefits

There are two different federal disability programs that pay monthly benefits to those who qualify. Both use the same medical exam when you apply, but that’s where the similarities end. The SSA pays Pennsylvania disability benefits to eligible claimants through one of two programs:

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

The good news is, you can use the same form to apply for disability from both programs. Just check a box on the application to ensure you’re screened for both SSI and SSDI benefits!

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 Social Security work credits 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 while paying 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.
  • Will your health problems 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 you can go back to work any sooner, the SSA will reject your Pennsylvania disability claim.
  • Have you seen a doctor to treat your medical issue regularly in the past year? If not, you’ll need to attend a Disability Determination Services (DDS) exam. This means the SSA appoints a DDS doctor to confirm you cannot work due to health problems. If you haven’t seen a doctor recently, talk to a lawyer before filing for disability.
  • Are you at least 18, but younger than 67 and not yet drawing any Social Security? SSDI is an insurance program that working people pay for with FICA taxes. Once you turn 67, SSDI automatically turns into regular Social Security retirement.

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 SSI section below.

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 triples your chances for a successful claim.

Pennsylvania disability claims now take 423 days, on average, to complete. That’s more than a year! A 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 get Pennsylvania disability benefits.

If you successfully apply on your own, you’ll probably wait at least 18 months to get your first payment. 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. If the SSA denies your first claim, you’ll wait 6-18 months for your appeals case court date to arrive.

3. How Much Does Pennsylvania Disability Pay In Monthly SSDI Benefits?

The maximum Pennsylvania disability payment available through the SSDI program n 2023 is $3,627 per month. However, the average SSDI payment for disabled workers nationwide is $1,483. 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 you still can’t work every 3, 5, or 7 years. You’ll need to keep proving you cannot work until you turn 67 years old. Once you turn 67, Pennsylvania disability automatically converts 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 67 and up cannot qualify for SSDI.

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 be 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 a stay-at-home parent, then apply for SSI. SSI is a federal aid program for those who are blind, disabled, or at least 65 years old. To qualify for Pennsylvania disability under the SSI program, you must have little to no income or financial assets. Those aged 65 and older can qualify for SSI based on age alone.

1. SSI & SSDI Use The Same Medical Rules to Decide Who Is Disabled

If you’re blind or meet the SSA’s definition of “disabled,” then your health issues can qualify for either program. Both offer Pennsylvania disability benefits to those who cannot work for medical reasons. 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

Your monthly income must fall below $1470 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. Eligible SSI applicants also need less than $2,000 in total 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 asset limit, including:

  • Your house and the land it’s on (only if you own your home)
  • One vehicle for your daily 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 $1,470 per month.

3. The Maximum Monthly SSI Pennsylvania Disability Payment in 2023 Is $914 for Individuals, $1,371 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 benefits? Please don’t do this.

The SSA checks on you every 3 to 7 years to make sure you still qualify for SSI. 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 keep your Pennsylvania disability payments until you’ve repaid all the money you owe.

How to Get Free Expert Claim Help at Home

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, private consultation before starting your paperwork.

All Pennsylvania disability lawyers work on contingency. That means if you’re not approved for disability, then you owe your lawyer $0. And if you get benefits, then you only pay one small fee.

Want a local claims expert to answer your questions for free? Click the button below to start your free online benefits quiz and see if you may qualify:

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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, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity,, 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.