Filing for Disability in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Bureau of Disability Determination (BDD), a state agency, makes the initial disability determination.

By , Contributing Author
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The initial application for Social Security Disability (SSD, or SSDI) and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) disability is identical for every state, because both SSD and SSI are federal programs. However, for Pennsylvania applicants, a state agency in Pennsylvania handles the review of the initial disability application after the local SSA does a general overview of the application.

Pennsylvania's Review of the Initial Disability Application

After your initial application is reviewed for basic eligibility by your local SSA office, it is forwarded to the Bureau of Disability Determination (BDD), which is a state agency under the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. The BDD is responsible for determining the medical eligibility of those applying for disability benefits. Claims examiners at the BDD may contact your doctors, with your permission, if they need more medical information regarding your impairments. They may also order you to undergo special examinations, at no cost to you, if necessary.

There are BDD offices in Harrisburg, Greensburg, and Wilkes-Barre.

The approval rate for initial disability applications is traditionally low. In Pennsylvania, BDD's average approval rating of 39% is somewhat higher than the national average of 35%.

Stage of Application

Pennsylvania

Nationally

Initial Application Approval

39%

35%

Reconsideration Approval

n/a

13%

Appeal Hearing Approval

50%

45%

Hearing Wait Time

15 months

19 months

Pennsylvania's Disability Appeals Process

In Pennsylvania, for years Social Security had shortened the appeals process by eliminating the first stage of appeal, the reconsideration step, but reconsideration has been reinstated as of April 2019. The second appeal step is a hearing in front of a judge. In order to keep the right to appeal your disability decision, you must submit an appeal in writing within 60 days of receiving your initial or reconsideration determination letter from the BDD.

Step 1: Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)

After you request an appeal hearing, you will be given a date for your hearing before an ALJ. Unfortunately, the waiting times in Pennsylvania are long: 15 months.

At your hearing, you will have the chance to present the most important parts of your case through questions and answers asked by the ALJ or your disability lawyer. Additionally, you will be able to bring a witness to testify about your impairments.

The success rate for hearings is higher than initial application approvals. In Pennsylvania, the approval rating at hearings is higher than the national average. After a hearing, 50% of disability claimants are approved (with 17% given partially favorable decisions and 83% given fully favorable decisions). If you are represented by a disability lawyer, your chance of getting a fully favorable decision increases.

Below is the contact information for the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO), the office that handles all hearings. Their regional office is based in Philadelphia and there are eight local offices that are spread throughout the state. Here is the contact information:

8380 Old York Road, Suite 250
Elkins Park, Pennsylvania 19027
(866) 964-7369

Services the following field offices: Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, Fairless Hills, Limerick, Philadelphia (NE), and Reading

2 N. 2nd Street, 8th Floor
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17101
(888) 352-3691

Services the following field offices: Carlisle, Chambersburg, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lewistown, and York

334 Washington Street, Suite 200
Johnstown, Pennsylvania 15901-9954
(866) 331-7134

Services the following field offices: Altoona, DuBois, Indiana, Johnstown, State College

6 Suburban Court
Chestnut Ridge Road
Morgantown, West Virginia 26505
(877) 405-9197

Services the Uniontown field office

1601 Market Street, 21st Floor
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103
(866) 964-6288

Services the following field offices: Norristown, Philadelphia (Downtown), Philadelphia (Aramingo), Philadelphia (South), Philadelphia (West), and West Chester

833 Chestnut Street, Suite 502
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107
(866) 572-9721

Services the following field offices: Chester, Philadelphia (Germantown), Philadelphia (Nicetown), and Upper Darby

1000 Liberty Avenue, Suite 2308
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(866) 331-2291

Services the following field offices: Greensburg, McKeesport, Monroeville, Pittsburgh (Downtown), Pittsburgh (East), Pittsburgh (Mt. Lebanon), Pittsburgh (North), and Rostraver

One Adams Place, Suite 200
300 Seven Fields Blvd.
Mars, PA 16046
(855) 278-4199

Services the following field offices: Ambridge, Butler, Cranberry (formerly Oil City), Erie, Kittanning, Meadville, New Castle, New Kensington, and Sharon

Stegmaier Building, Suite 201
7 North Wilkes-Barre Boulevard
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 18702-5242
(866) 895-1594

Services the following field offices: Bloomsburg, East Stroudsburg, Hazleton, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Towanda, Wilkes-Barre, and Williamsport

Step 2: Appeals Council

If your disability benefits are denied after the hearing, you may appeal to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council only hears cases that it determines to have been decided incorrectly.

Step 3: File a Federal Lawsuit

If the Appeals Council decides not to hear your case, decides your case unfavorably, or a ALJ rehearing results in an unfavorable decision, you have the final appeal option of filing a lawsuit in federal court. Pennsylvania has three federal district courts -- Eastern District, Middle District, and Western District. Where to file your federal suit should be based on where you live.

SSI State Supplement

For those who are receiving SSI in Pennsylvania, a majority of the monthly payment comes from the federal government. For 2019, an individual receives $771 per month and couples receive $1,157 per month from the federal government. Pennsylvania provides additional monthly payments to its citizens who are living in certain circumstances.

Below is the total monthly payment SSI recipients will receive from the federal and state combined.

Combined Monthly Payment
Living Alone
Individual $771.00
Couple $1157.00
Living in the household of another
Individual $514.00
Couple $771.34
Domiciliary care facility for adults
Individual $1,205.30
Couple $2,104.40
Personal care boarding home
Individual $1,210.30
Couple $2,114.40

Residents of domiciliary care homes (DOMCARE) and personal care boarding homes (PCBHs) will receive a single payment that includes both the federal SSI payment and the supplement from Pennsylvania.

Vocational Rehabilitation Services

For many people who have become disabled, they are unable to return to the job they had before they became disabled. There are services available to help people to prepare for and get a new job. In Pennsylvania, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) provides such vocational training.

OVR utilizes the Commonwealth Workforce Development System (CWDS) in order to link individuals and businesses in Pennsylvania to workforce development opportunities through OVR. To apply for OVR services, you can contact or go to your local OVR office or you can refer yourself to OVR by filing out a form on the CWDS webpage.

Below is the contact information for OVR's central office (contact information for their 15 local offices can be found on the OVR website).

1521 N. 6th Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102
(717) 787-5244

If you're looking for legal help with your disability application or appeal, you can use our lawyer locator tool below to find a local lawyer who can help you with your claim.

Updated June 26, 2019

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