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Pennsylvania disability benefits guide

How to Apply for Disability Benefits in Pennsylvania

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
May 10, 2024  ·  2 min read
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Atticus offers free, high-quality disability advice for Americans who can't work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience, and have helped over 10,000 Americans apply for disability benefits.

See if you qualify

If you live in Pennsylvania and cannot return to work due to an injury or illness, you may be eligible to receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Roughly 420,000 Pennsylvanians receive disability benefits for injuries and medical conditions. Among the most common conditions in Pennsylvania is mental disorders

We’ve broken down everything you need to know to apply for (and win) disability benefits in Pennsylvania.

Disability benefits in Pennsylvania

While Pennsylvania does not offer state disability benefits, residents can still apply for disability benefits from the U.S. government or a private insurance company.

You can qualify for four programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income, Veterans disability benefits, and private disability insurance.

If you’re unsure which disability benefits you’re eligible for, this guide walks you through the different types.

SSDI vs. SSI: What’s the difference?

The SSA offers two federal disability benefits programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While both programs provide monthly payments and health insurance coverage to those with disabilities, there are several key distinctions you should know: 

Eligibility requirements

SSDI is for people with disabilities who have worked and regularly paid taxes under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). SSI, however, is a needs-based disability benefits program for elderly applicants who have limited income and resources. 

Medical eligibility

To qualify for SSDI or SSI, you must meet the SSA's "definition of disability." You must be unable to maintain a job for at least a year due to an impairment or health condition.

Work credits

To be eligible for SSDI, you generally need 40 work credits. Work history is not a factor in determining eligibility for SSI.

Payment amounts

Both programs provide monthly checks, but the determining factors for payment amounts vary. The SSDI determines your monthly benefit amounts based on your lifetime earnings and the amount you’ve paid in Social Security taxes. The SSI determines your payments based on your current income and assets. SSDI payments are typically higher than SSI.

Estimate your disability benefit amount in just a few steps

We'll use the Social Security Administration's formula to estimate your monthly benefit.

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How to apply for Social Security disability in Pennsylvania

There are three ways to apply for Social Security disability in Pennsylvania: 

  1. Apply online: File your Social Security disability application directly on the SSA website and submit it electronically.

  2. Apply via phone: Call the SSA at (800) 772-1213 or dial your local SSA office. Unsure about where to call? Our directory lists 55 offices throughout Pennslyvania with phone and fax numbers. 

  3. Apply in person: Visit your local SSA office to apply. An SSA claims representative can give you specific instructions about the application. If you’re unsure how to answer certain questions, it’s best to contact a disability lawyer.

How much are disability benefits in Pennsylvania?

The maximum Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit for 2024 is $3,822 monthly, while Supplemental Security Income (SSI) offers a maximum of $943 monthly for individuals. In Pennsylvania, the average SSDI payment for disabled workers is $1,777 monthly, and the average SSA payment is $631.

Create an SSA account with this step-by-step guide to determine the exact amount you’ll receive.

Get help with your application

Find out if you’re eligible for disability benefits by taking our 2-minute quiz. Our client advocate will create a plan to get your benefits and can introduce you to a highly qualified lawyer in your area. A good disability lawyer can simplify your application process. Hiring a disability lawyer costs nothing upfront. You will only pay your disability lawyer a one-time fee if the SSA approves your benefits.

Atticus lawyers in Pennsylvania

Here are just a few Atticus lawyers in the Keystone state:

Osterhout Berger Disability Law

Attorney Ruth Kolb of Kolb Legal

Chermol & Fishman

521 Cedar Way, Suite 200, Oakmont, Pennsylvania 15139

434 Allegheny River Blvd. STE 215 Oakmont, PA 15139

11450 Bustleton Ave., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19116

Hire a trustworthy disability lawyer in Pennsylvania

Frequently asked questions about benefits in Pennsylvania

What qualifies you for disability in Pennsylvania?

To qualify for disability you need to have a condition that prevents you from working for at least a year. You’ll also need to meet certain work history requirements (for SSDI) or be within certain income limits (for SSI). For more on these requirements, read our full write up here.

What conditions qualify for disability in Pennsylvania?

Any condition that will prevent you from working for a year or more can qualify for disability benefits. Some of the most common conditions include musculoskeletal disorders, mental disorders, nervous system diseases, and circulatory system diseases. See our full list of conditions that qualify here.

How long does it take to get approved for disability in Pennsylvania?

It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in Pennsylvania. Most people who apply are initially rejected, and need to appeal this decision. If you appeal and go to a hearing, the process takes just over two years on average. Read more: How Long It Takes to Get Approved for Disability Benefits

How much does disability pay in Pennsylvania?

The average SSDI payment in Pennsylvania is $1,777.47 per month. The average SSI payment is $631.22. What you’ll earn depends on your income, or the amount you’ve historically paid into the Social Security program. Read more on what amount you can expect.

How should I prepare my disability application in Pennsylvania?

Answer the application questions truthfully, consistently, and succinctly. You should also ensure that you gather and submit all your medical records with your application. The SSA paperwork can be complicated, so our legal team has written a full guide to the application here.

Does Pennsylvania have a state disability program?

No, Pennsylvania doesn't have its own state disability program. Only five states have a state program (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island). Residents of Pennsylvania can apply for federal disability programs (SSDI and SSI). Read more about SSDI and SSI here.

Related resources for disability applicants in Pennsylvania:

Disability in Pennsylvania: How to Qualify, Apply, and Get Approved

A hand drawn image of the lead disability lawyer.
By Jackie Jakab

Disability lawyers in Pennsylvania

A hand drawn image of the lead disability lawyer.
By Jackie Jakab

See what you qualify for

How long has your condition made it hard to work?

Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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