Filing for Disability in Pennsylvania

Here's what you need to know about filing for disability in Pennsylvania, including how much disability is.

By , J.D. · Albany Law School

The initial application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) disability is identical for every state, because both SSDI and SSI are federal programs.

But for Pennsylvania applicants, a state agency in Pennsylvania handles the medical review of the initial disability application, after the local office of the Social Security Administration (SSA) checks the application to see if it meets the technical requirements.

How to Apply for Disability Benefits in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, you can apply for disability benefits online or through your local Social Security field office. At the field office (or over the phone), a claims representative will review your application to make sure you've met all of the technical requirements for benefits (such as the work history requirements for SSDI or the income limits for SSI).

After your local SSA office reviews your initial application for basic eligibility, they forward it 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 Pennsylvania residents who are applying for disability benefits.

Claims examiners at the BDD may contact your doctors, with your permission, if they need 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. To contact the BDD, call their toll-free number 888-772-1409.

What Are My Chances of Approval for Disability Benefits in Pennsylvania?

The approval rate for initial disability applications in Pennsylvania is 40%, slightly higher than the national average of 38%. Here is table comparing Pennsylvania's approval rates with the national average at all the stages, as well as the average wait time for a hearing.

Stage of Application



Initial Application Approval



Reconsideration Approval



Appeal Hearing Approval



Hearing Wait Time

17 months

15 months

Source: ALJ Disposition Data Fiscal Year 2023 and Average Wait Time Until Hearing, June 2023 (Social Security).

What Is the Appeals Process in Pennsylvania?

There are four levels to the appeals process, but most people only go through the first two: "reconsideration" and the disability hearing.

Step 1: Reconsideration

If the claims examiner at Pennsylvania's BDD denies your claim, you can ask that a different claims examiner reconsider it. You do this by filing a reconsideration request (this is the first level of appeal). (Unfortunately, at the reconsideration stage, only 16% of initially denied claims are approved.)

Step 2: Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)

If your claim is denied again, you can request a hearing by filing a request for a hearing with an administrative law judge. The BDD will then send your claim to the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO), a branch of Social Security with offices across Pennsylvania (see list below), where a judge will decide your case at a disability hearing.

After you request an appeal hearing, you'll be given a date for your hearing before an ALJ. Unfortunately, the wait times in Pennsylvania are long: 17 months in 2023.

At your hearing, you'll 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'll be able to bring a witness to testify about your impairments (though not many people do).

The success rate for hearings is higher than for initial applications. In Pennsylvania, the approval rate at hearings is a bit lower than the national average. After a hearing, 50% of disability claimants are approved in Pennsylvania. If you're represented by a disability lawyer, your chance of getting a fully favorable decision increases.

Step 3: Appeals Council

If the judge denies you disability benefits after the hearing, you can appeal to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council only hears cases that it determines to have been decided incorrectly.

Step 4: File a Federal Lawsuit

Your final appeal option is filing a lawsuit in federal court if:

  • the Appeals Council decides not to hear your case
  • the Appeals Council decides your case unfavorably, or
  • an ALJ rehearing results in an unfavorable decision.

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. You'll need to hire a disability lawyer to file a lawsuit in federal court.

How Much Are SSDI Benefits in Pennsylvania?

The average SSDI payment in Pennsylvania is $1,630 per month, but some people receive up to $3,630, depending on their income. (And widows and disabled adult children receive less.) Read more about how Social Security calculates your SSDI payment.

The State of Pennsylvania exempts 100% of Social Security benefits from a resident's tax liability. That means the state doesn't tax SSDI. For people with higher incomes, the federal government will tax a portion of their SSDI benefits.

What Is Pennsylvania's SSI State Supplement?

For those who are receiving SSI in Pennsylvania, a majority of the monthly payment comes from the federal government. In 2023, the maximum federal payment an individual can receive is $914 per month, and couples receive up to $1,371 per month. (But the average federal SSI payment in Pennsylvania is only $596 because the amount of SSI people receive depends on whether they have other income or receive free room and board.)

In addition, the State of Pennsylvania provides additional monthly payments to its citizens who are living in certain circumstances. Most people only receive an extra $22 and $25 a month, though the average state supplemental payment in Pennsylvania is $370 (the average includes much higher supplements for people living in group homes).

Below are the total monthly maximum payments that SSI recipients can receive from the federal and state combined, depending on their living arrangements.

Living Arrangements Combined Monthly Payment
Living alone
Individual $936.10
Couple $1,404.30
Living in the household of another
Individual $635.53
Couple $952.44
Domiciliary care facility for adults
Individual $1,548.30
Couple $2,718.40
Personal care boarding home
Individual $1,553.30
Couple $2,728.40

Source: Medical Assistance Eligibility Handbook, 2023

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.

SSI payments are not taxed by either the State of Pennsylvania or the IRS.

Does Pennsylvania Have Services That Can Help Me Return to Work?

Many people who have become disabled are unable to return to the job they had before they became disabled. Fortunately, there are services available to help people to prepare for and get a new job. In Pennsylvania, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), managed by the Department of Labor and Industry (DLI), provides such vocational training.

To apply for OVR services, you can contact or go to the district OVR office that serves your county or fill out a form found on their 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

Where Are Pennsylvania's Hearing Offices?

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 their contact information:

Philadelphia Regional Office

4th Floor
300 Spring Garden Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Telephone: (215) 597-9980
Fax: (833) 613-0470

Elkins Park HO

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

Harrisburg HO

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

Johnstown HO

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

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

Philadelphia HO

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

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

Philadelphia East HO

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

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

Pittsburgh HO

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

Seven Fields HO

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

Wilkes-Barre HO

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

Before your hearing, consider checking for address and phone number changes with Social Security's hearing office locator.

Get More Information on Filing for Disability

If you'd like to find out more about getting disability and what to expect during the application process, look over these articles:

Updated September 11, 2023

Other Sources:
Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, 2021
Annual Statistical Supplement, 2022

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