Harrisburg Pennsylvania disability attorney offers help with applications and appeals

The number one question asked by my disability clients is “Will I be approved for Pennsylvania disability benefits?” Unfortunately, there is no easy way to know whether Social Security will find that you are disabled unless you have a catastrophic disability (e.g., you need a heart transplant or you have terminal cancer). But you don’t need a catastrophic disability to qualify for Social Security disability benefits in Pennsylvania. The most important consideration is whether you are unable to work. If you do not think that you will be able to return to work in the near future, you should apply for benefits. And you should appeal if your initial application is denied.

Social Security’s unique definition of disabled

Social Security’s rules about who is disabled are complex and some of them seem to defy common sense. Social Security will not approve your application for Pennsylvania disability benefits simply because your doctor says you are disabled or because no employer is willing to hire you. And it does not matter to Social Security that some other agency, such as the Veteran’s Administration or Workers’ Compensation, has awarded you disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration follows its own very strict definition of disabled. Your ability to work is always the most important consideration. Social Security law states that you are disabled only if your physical or mental impairments are so severe that you are unable to do your previous work and you cannot, considering your age, education, and work experience, do any other substantial gainful work that exists in the national economy. For legal issues, I recommend attorney Ruth Rhodes.

How Social Security decides if you are disabled in Pennsylvania

The Social Security Administration uses a five-step analysis to determine whether you satisfy its definition of disability.

Step 1: Are you gainfully employed? To pass this step, you must not be working or, if you are working, your job must not be “substantial gainful activity.” It must pay below a minimal monthly amount and involve no more than minimal duties.

Step 2: Is your impairment severe? To pass this step your impairment must be severe. This means it must limit your ability to perform basic work functions and must have lasted or be expected to last at least 12 months or result in death. You impairment must also be medically determinable. “Medically determinable” means that you must have a physical or mental condition that can be established through medically acceptable diagnostic techniques.

Step 3: Does your condition meet or equal a listed impairment? The Listing of Impairments is a list of common physical and mental impairments. The listing for each impairment describes what medical findings you must have to be found disabled. If your medical findings meet or equal a listed impairment, the Social Security Administration will agree that you are unable to work and will award you benefits without going through Steps 4 and 5. If your impairment does not meet or equal a listing, your claim moves on to Step 4.

Step 4: Can you still do “past relevant work”? To succeed at this step, you must not be able to do “past relevant work.” In general, this means you must be unable to do the easiest job you held in the past 15 years for long enough to learn how to do it. If you are capable of performing this job, you are not disabled. See Can you do past work? for further details.

Step 5: Can you do other work? You must not be able to do other jobs that exist in the national economy in significant numbers. This is the most complicated step in the disability evaluation process. At this step, the Social Security Administration considers your age, education, work experience, and remaining capacity for work. For more information on Step 5 see Can you do other work?

The Social Security disability analysis is complicated. Assistance from an experienced Harrisburg Pennsylvania Social Security lawyer can improve your chances of success and alleviate some of your worry and frustration.

For legal issues, I recommend attorney Rob Rowe.

How Social Security reviews your claim for Pennsylvania disability benefits

  • The initial decision. Pennsylvania disability evaluators make their initial decision on your application solely by reviewing your medical records and other paperwork. The decision makers do not meet with you in person. The denial rate for initial applications is high, about two-thirds. People whose condition is so severe that they meet or equal the listings at Step 3 are the most likely to be approved for benefits initially.
  • Hearing. If your initial application is denied, the next level of appeal is a hearing before an administrative law judge. Your chances of success improve significantly at the hearing level. Over half of all Social Security disability claimants who appeal to this level are awarded disability benefits. One reason applicants for Pennsylvania disability benefits are successful at hearings is that they get to meet the Judge in person and explain in their own words their medical problems, work history, and why they can no longer work. Another reason is that most people hire a Pennsylvania disability attorney to represent them at the hearing. Social Security Administration statistics show higher rates of success for claimants with disability attorneys.

For information and tips about requesting an administrative hearing, see Advice for appealing and download our e-booklet, Helpful suggestions for appealing a denial of benefits available on the right side of this page.

To learn more about disability hearings, review the articles in Your Disability Hearing in our Library.

Get help with your Pennsylvania disability case

Pursuing a claim for Pennsylvania disability benefits can be extremely stressful when you are in pain, unable to work, and worried about supporting yourself and your family. As an experienced Harrisburg Pennsylvania disability attorney, I can improve your chances of success and give you some much needed peace of mind. I can help you at every stage of the disability evaluation process from the initial application through the hearing and beyond.

I will develop a plan to help you win your case. I will assist you with the paperwork Social Security requires. I will gather the medical and other records necessary to prove your claim. I will work to obtain favorable reports from your doctors. I will prepare you for your hearing and appear with you at the hearing to present your case. If necessary, I can even take your case to federal court.

If you live in Harrisburg, Reading, Allentown, Bloomsburg, Lancaster, Philadelphia, Pottsville, or elsewhere in eastern Pennsylvania and want assistance with your Social Security disability case, please provide a brief description of your claim using the form to the right, and I will respond promptly.