When you’re young, you may think that you will always be in good health. But the reality is that every American has the potential to become disabled due to a medical or mental health condition. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 27% of all adults in the U.S. have some type of disability.
If you can’t work because of a disability, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) through the Social Security Administration (SSA). To be approved for monthly cash benefits, you will need to demonstrate that you have a mental health or medical condition that makes you unable to work for a period of 12 months or longer. Depending on the type of benefits you apply for, you may also need to show an employment history and/or that you have limited assets and income.
Bross & Frankel represents people with disabilities throughout Pennsylvania, working hard to help them get the benefits that they need. Whether you are filing an initial application or are appealing a denial, our law firm can help. Reach out today to schedule a free consultation with an Allentown Social Security disability attorney.
Am I Eligible for Social Security Disability?
If you can’t work because of a disability, then you may be facing financial difficulties. While there are organizations in the Allentown region that help people with disabilities, such as Via of the Lehigh Valley and Community Options Inc, you may still need additional support. In this situation, you may consider applying for Social Security disability benefits.
For both SSDI and SSI, you must prove that you are disabled. The SSA uses a five-step sequential process to determine if a person is disabled:
- A person cannot earn more than $1,470 a month in 2023 from working (known as substantial gainful employment) when claiming disability;
- A person must have an impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limit their ability to do basic work and is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death;
- Social Security will review whether a person’s condition meets all of the requirements for a condition on SSA’s list of disabling conditions (known as the “Blue Book”), or has other factors that equal a condition on that list;
- If not, then the medical impairment must prevent them from performing any of their past work; and
- They must not be able to do any other type of work, considering their impairment, age, education, past work experience, and any transferable skills (this last step requires Social Security to identify other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy).
The next step is determining whether you will apply for SSDI, SSI, or both. There are different requirements for each program. Depending on your situation, you may be able to receive both SSDI and SSI.
SSDI is funded by Social Security taxes. For this reason, you must have earned work credits by working and paying taxes. You can earn up to 4 credits per year for working. Most people need 40 work credits to qualify for SSDI, although this number may be lower if you are younger.
SSI is funded by the U.S. treasury through personal, business, and other types of taxes. You don’t have to show a work history to qualify for SSI, but you must demonstrate that you meet the program’s strict asset and income limits. If you are eligible for SSI, you may also qualify for other needs-based programs such as Medicaid.
Applying for Social Security Disability
If you believe that you may qualify for SSDI and/or SSI, then you will need to file an application. A disability claim can be filed online, over the phone, or at a local Social Security Field Office. In Allentown, the Social Security Field Office is located on North 4th Street, across from the Lehigh County Prison.
The application will require a lot of information, such as:
- Social Security Number
- Birth certificate
- Proof of citizenship or lawful status
- For SSDI, records of your work history (Social Security focuses on your last 15 years of work)
- Information on any recent earnings (if possible, your most recent W-2 form)
- Contact information for doctors, therapists, and any hospitals where you have been treated
- Information on the medications you take
- An adult disability report
- Medical records already in your possession
- Pay stubs
- For SSI, information on your assets
Once your application has been submitted, it will be processed by a local Social Security office. If you meet the non-medical eligibility for benefits, then your file will be sent to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Disability Determination Services to analyze whether you are disabled under SSA standards. After this decision is made, then the Bureau will return your application to the field office to issue an approval or denial of benefits.
There are many potential pitfalls associated with applying for disability benefits, such as not supplying sufficient medical evidence, not filling out the correct forms, or even applying to the wrong program. An experienced Allentown Social Security disability lawyer can help you with the process, advocating for you and helping increase the likelihood that your initial disability application will be approved.
The Social Security Disability Appeals Process
Unfortunately, many disability claims are not approved – often for technical reasons. Fortunately, you can appeal a denial of disability benefits.
There are 4 levels of appeal for Social Security disability benefits:
- Request for reconsideration;
- A hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ);
- Review by the SSA Appeals Council; and
- Federal court lawsuit.
Typically, you have 60 days after receiving a notice from the SSA to file an appeal.
The appeals process has strict deadlines and complicated rules. It can often be difficult for a person to advocate for themselves while appealing a denial of Social Security disability benefits – especially when they are already dealing with doctor’s appointments and other issues related to their impairment.
A compassionate Allentown Social Security disability benefits attorney will review your case file and any notices that you received from the Social Security Administration. They will then get to work to address the underlying reason for the denial. This may include consulting with medical professionals and vocational experts, gathering additional medical records, and even putting together testimony from family, friends, and colleagues. At each step of the process, they will fight for your right to disability benefits.
How Our Law Firm Can Help
Social Security disability benefits can provide a lifeline when you can’t work because of a mental health or medical impairment. Being approved for SSI and/or SSDI can be difficult, especially if you are unfamiliar with the system and the types of evidence that you will need to put together to qualify for benefits. Our law firm is here for you.
With law offices throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Bross & Frankel is dedicated to helping people with disabilities get the monthly benefits that they need. We will listen to your story, and advise you of your legal rights and options. If you decide to move forward with a disability claim, we will work with you to put together the strongest possible application or appeal. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with our Allentown Social Security disability lawyers, give us a call at 866-311-3786 or fill out our online contact form.