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 people with disabilities: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This article will focus exclusively on SSDI, which is intended for applicants who have earned enough “work credits” through their employment histories. Read on to find out whether you must be permanently disabled to qualify for SSDI in Pennsylvania, discover what “work credits” are, and learn about the other criteria you must meet in order to receive disability 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 legal consultation.

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 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 (1) you 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.”

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 2018, you are earning more than $1,180 per month (or, if you are blind, more than $1,970 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.

Philadelphia Disability Attorneys Handling SSDI Claims

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 disability attorneys at Young, Marr & 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 disability lawyers are ready to help.

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