Do I Have to Be Permanently Disabled to Get Disability Benefits in Pennsylvania?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) operates two programs that provide financial benefits for disabled people: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Many people who find themselves unable to work wonder if disability (usually SSDI) is right for them. One of the biggest concerns is that their disability isn’t serious enough or that they can’t get benefits if the disability isn’t permanent.

In general, “disability” means a condition that prevents you from working. The SSA’s disability programs do not require you to be permanently disabled, but they only give benefits to people with disabilities expected to last for over a year. Since SSDI is a long-term disability program, it usually isn’t right for people with minor or short-term disabilities, who may be able to seek other benefits.

If you need help filing an SSDI claim or have questions about your eligibility, we invite you to contact our Philadelphia long-term disability lawyers for a free case review. Call Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates today at (215) 515-2954.

How Long Do You Have to Be Disabled to Get SSDI Benefits in Pennsylvania?

Many people are under the impression that you must be permanently disabled in order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. This is not the case. However, while it is not necessary to be permanently disabled, your disability must still meet certain time requirements established by the SSA. You must also meet several criteria involving your income and work history, which our Montgomery County disability lawyers will discuss in the next section of this article. For now, we will start by reviewing how long you must be disabled – and how severely – in order to have a chance at qualifying.

For you to be considered eligible for SSDI benefits, your disability must either:

  • Have already lasted for at least 12 months
  • Be expected to last for at least 12 months
  • Be expected to result in death

If your disability does not meet one of these descriptions, you will not be considered “disabled,” and your SSDI claim will be rejected by the SSA.

In addition to meeting the time requirements listed above, your disability must also meet severity requirements. The SSA uses a document called the Listing of Impairments, nicknamed the “Blue Book,” to determine whether each claimant’s disability meets these requirements. For example, if you are filing a claim because you broke your leg – for instance, you suffered a femur fracture – you must meet the Blue Book’s requirements that you (1) cannot walk effectively and (2) have medical imaging to prove that the fractured bones are not joined properly.

Many of the Blue Book’s medical standards are extremely technical and detailed. However, even if you do not exactly match the descriptions in the Blue Book, you may still be able to qualify if you are severely impaired. As the SSA broadly explains, “Your condition must significantly limit your ability to do basic work such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting, and remembering.”

Should I Apply for Social Security Disability with a Short-Term Disability in Pennsylvania?

Because the SSA uses a definition of “disability” that includes only long-term disabilities, SSDI isn’t necessarily right for many people with short-term disabilities. Injuries that will keep you from being able to work for a couple of weeks or months are not the typical kinds of disabilities that people file SSDI for. In fact, it is unlikely that such a short-term disability would qualify for benefits.

Another thing to think about when considering whether your injuries or conditions will last long enough for benefits is how long it takes to apply for SSI and SSDI benefits. SSDI requires a 6-month waiting period built into how long it will take to apply. The average disability application takes 264 days for a disposition in Pennsylvania (almost 9 months). If your case needs to go to a hearing, it can take even longer (almost 10 months on average for a hearing).

This means that applying for SSDI simply isn’t right for your case if your disability is only expected to last a few months. However, it’s not always easy to tell how long an illness or health condition is going to last. There may be a chance that your condition could go on longer and might qualify you for benefits. However, you need medical evidence showing that your condition will last more than a year before you can get your application approved.

If you have any doubts about whether your disability will last long enough for SSDI benefits, talk to our Jenkintown disability attorneys about your condition and whether people with similar conditions can usually get SSDI benefits.

Other SSDI Requirements: Work Credits and Income Limits

The time requirements and medical standards above are not the only SSDI criteria you must meet. In addition to being severely disabled for at least one year, you must also satisfy certain financial requirements involving your employment history, monthly earnings, and “work credits.”

Unlike SSI, which is geared toward low-income applicants, the SSDI program requires that you have already completed a certain amount of work. To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must prove that you have earned the appropriate number of “work credits.” You earn work credits by performing a job that is “covered by Social Security” – in other words, paying Social Security (FICA) taxes. Depending on your circumstances, you can earn a maximum of up to four work credits per year.

Some claimants need more work credits than others to qualify. That is because the number of work credits you need depends on how old you were when you became disabled. While most SSDI applicants require at least 40 work credits, there are some exceptions for younger claimants.

In addition to meeting age-appropriate standards for work credits, you must also meet the SSA’s income requirements for SSDI recipients. If, in 2022, you are earning more than $1,350 per month (or, if you are blind, more than $2,260 per month), the SSA considers you to be participating in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA), which means you do not meet the criteria for SSDI disability benefits. However, these limits only apply to money that you are earning specifically through work. Money that comes from other sources, such as investments or your spouse’s income, will not be counted against your monthly income limit. Keep in mind that SSDI income limits in Pennsylvania change yearly to account for inflation.

Alternatives to Disability Benefits for Non-Permanent Conditions in Pennsylvania

If your disability is going to be temporary, there may be other benefits you can apply for. Many employers have benefits packages that will provide short-term disability insurance or workers’ compensation benefits that can help cover lost wages and medical expenses during periods of temporary disability. It is important to talk to a Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer about your condition, especially if it came about because of an injury or a workplace accident.

After an injury, you might be left with permanent physical effects or injuries that will last for several months. It is important to remember the SSA’s definition of disability when determining whether SSDI benefits are the right option for you: injuries typically do not qualify for disability benefits if they will last for less than a year or if they do not interfere with your ability to work. However, workers’ compensation and short-term disability might be the perfect systems to get compensation for these kinds of injuries.

Workers’ comp. can often pay benefits to injured workers for injuries that will keep them out of work for a few weeks or months. These injured workers may also be able to claim partial benefits if they can return to work with reduced tasks – something that SSDI does not provide.

If your injuries did not happen at work, your short-term disability benefits from work may still provide you with wages and benefits during this period. You could also be entitled to sue the party who injured you, helping to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

If your health condition was caused by illness rather than an injury or accident, disability benefits through your job might still be able to cover your needs. If you are unsure whether your condition qualifies for SSDI benefits, talk to our Springfield, PA disability lawyers to go over your case and learn more about your options.

Do Multiple Short-Term Disabilities or Flare-Ups Qualify for Disability Benefits in Pennsylvania?

Many disabilities that qualify for SSDI benefits are based on multiple episodes or flare-ups of a condition. Physical and mental health conditions like sickle cell anemia, chronic heart failure, and depression have good days and bad days. Just because you are in an episode one day and somewhat “better” the next does not mean that the disability has gone away.

Many disabilities based on bouts or short episodes of significant impact on daily living and the ability to work still qualify as long-term or permanent disabilities. These disorders can qualify you for disability benefits if they, overall, inhibit your ability to work to a degree that prevents you from supporting yourself.

With many of these disorders, good medical documentation of the episodes or bouts will be necessary to prove to the SSA that you have a disability. Talk to your Pennsylvania disability lawyers and your doctor about what documentation is necessary, what tests need to be run, and how proof of hospitalizations or ER visits can help support your disability application.

What to Do if Disability Benefits Are Denied for Permanent Disabilities in Pennsylvania

If you are severely disabled, have an adequate work history, and do not exceed the SSA’s monthly income thresholds, you may be eligible to receive SSDI benefits. Unfortunately, the SSDI application process can be difficult, and it is not uncommon for claims to be denied. The Bucks County disability benefits lawyers at Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates have more than 30 years of experience helping disabled Pennsylvanians fight for SSDI benefits, and are here to help you with all aspects of the application process. Whether you have questions about filing a claim for the first time, need legal assistance because your disability claim was denied, or wish to submit a claim on behalf of your son or daughter, our experienced Berks County disability lawyers are ready to help.

When a disability claim is denied, it often means that the SSA was unable to make a determination based on the information they had.  Often, your attorney can help gather additional information, set you up with medical professionals to document your condition, and submit the claim for reconsideration.  If necessary, we may also be able to take your case to a hearing or pursue further steps for appeal.

There is no reason that the SSA should deny you benefits if you have a permanent injury that meets SSDI’s requirements for disabilities.  Nonetheless, the average approval rating for disability applications is less than 50%.  However, this acceptance rate statistically goes up with the help of an experienced disability attorney.

Pennsylvania Disability Attorneys Handling SSDI Claims

With offices throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, we serve clients in Philadelphia, Bucks County, Montgomery County, and beyond. For a free case review about Social Security Disability Insurance in Pennsylvania, contact our Pennsylvania SSDI lawyers. Call Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates at (215) 515-2954 today.

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