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In Pennsylvania, workers suffering from a work injury or illness may qualify for Workers’ Compensation. People who are unable to work due to non-work related injuries or medical condition aren’t eligible for Workers’ Compensation.  In that case, disability benefits may be available through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI). These federal programs are not limited to non-work related disabilities. In fact, it may be possible to receive both Workers’ Compensation and Social Security benefits. However, Workers’ Compensation typically serves as a temporary source of income while the injured worker heals or awaits acceptance for SSDI benefits. HKQ Law Attorney Donald Ligorio points out that a lawyer that is well versed in the intricacies of disability benefits can help you determine the best way to proceed with your claim. 

SSDI versus SSI

Social Security Disability Insurance is funded by Social Security deductions from paychecks and serves individuals who have paid into the system. In general, to get SSDI benefits, you must meet two different earnings tests:

  1. A recent work test, based on your age at the time you became disabled; and
  2. A duration of work test to show that you worked long enough under Social Security.

Monthly SSDI benefit amounts are based on the insured worker's Social Security earnings record. Typically, the higher your salary was, the higher monthly benefits would be.

Supplemental Security Income is for people who are 65 or older, as well as blind or disabled people of any age, including children. To qualify for SSI, you must also have little or no income and few resources. SSI benefits are based not on a recipient's prior work history but rather on 

an individual's financial need. Claimants who did not earn enough taxable income to be eligible for SSDI may apply for SSI. Monthly SSI payments are based on each individual applicant's income and resources, up to the maximum federal benefit rate. If you get SSI, you may be automatically eligible for Medicaid.

Disability defined

For the purpose of Social Security benefits, to be found disabled,

An adult:

  • must be unable to do any substantial work because of a medical condition (physical or mental); and
  • that medical condition must have lasted or be expected to last at least 1 year or be expected to result in death.

For children:

  • the child must have a physical or mental condition that very seriously limits his or her  activities;  and
  • the condition must have lasted or be expected to last at least 1 year or result in death.

Applying for Social Security benefits

An application for SSDI or SSI can be made online, by phone or in person at any Social Security office. Applications are initially reviewed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to determine financial eligibility. Eligible applications are then forwarded to Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Disability Determination (BDD) for determination of an applicant’s medical eligibility under the Social Security law. BBD determines:

  • Severity of impairment
  • Whether that impairment meets or equals the SSA’s "Listing of Medical Impairments"
  • Applicant’s ability to do prior job
  • Applicant’s ability to do any job

To make the determinations, medical evidence requested from the applicant’s doctors, hospitals and other institutions that provide medical treatment is reviewed.

The vast majority of applications (up to 70%) are initially denied. One of the most common reasons disability benefits are denied is the lack of sufficient medical evidence to prove the disability. However, even a minor clerical error in filling out the application can create a major issue, and lead to a denial. An experienced disability benefits attorney can be indispensable in developing medical evidence and accurately completing the application.

Appealing denial of benefits

A claimant whose application has been denied may simply file a new claim. However, the best option is to file an appeal. The hearing will be heard by a federally appointed Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The approval rate of SSDI and SSI claims increases substantially at the hearing level 

If the ALJ’s decision is unfavorable, the appeals process can be continued by requesting a review by the SSA Appeals Council. The Council considers every request it receives, but doesn't always grant review. Should the Council decline to review your case, or if you disagree with its decision, you can file a lawsuit in federal district court.  The District Court Judge will reverse the SSA’s decision if it is deemed “arbitrary and capricious”. The claimant’s evidence must show that the decision was inherently unreasonable, or not based on fact.

In each step of the appeals process, you have 60 days to file for further review. Appealing a denied claim is a complex process; one that is best undertaken with the assistance of an attorney familiar with Social Security law.

Losing disability benefits

If it is determined that a beneficiary no longer meets the medical and financial requirements, their benefits will be stopped. If you’re receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits will automatically convert to retirement benefits.

If your disability benefits are denied, modified, terminated, or less than you believe you’re entitled to, call HKQ Law Attorney Donald Ligorio at (800) 760-1529. No one will work harder for you.

About HKQ Law

Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn is considered one of the top civil litigation and commercial law firms that has had the privilege of representing more families in the courtroom than any other NEPA firm. The attorneys at HKQ Law have been honored as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Best Law Firms by US News and World Report, and have received the AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbel. HKQ Law was recently recognized for one of the top 20 Verdicts in Pennsylvania.

The firm’s Personal Injury Team, led by Attorney Joe Quinn, Jr., has won some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region's history. The Personal Injury Team focuses on a wide array of personal injury claims and civil litigation, including medical malpractice, auto and truck accidents, aviation accidents, unsafe vehicles, dangerous or defective products, workplace injuries (worker's compensation), construction site accidents, claim denials by insurance companies, dangerous drugs, defective children's products, nursing home abuse and neglect, and falls due to unsafe conditions (slip and fall).

Attorney Joseph A Quinn, Jr. is one of only 100 attorneys in the United States (and one of only three in Pennsylvania) honored with membership in the Inner Circle of Trial Advocates, and one of only 500 attorneys worldwide chosen to be a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He has been a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since the program began and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since the publication was established in 1987. Best Lawyers also named him top personal injury attorney for Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. In addition, Best Lawyers, in conjunction with U.S. News & World Report, has designated HKQ a Tier 1 Best Law Firm across multiple categories in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Since the inception of the firm, the Commercial / Corporate Team led by Attorney Allan Kluger has provided comprehensive, integrated legal services to many of Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania's largest corporations, businesses, banks, non-profits and institutions, handling matters involving labor and employment, wills, trusts and estate planning, estate administration, elder law, commercial transactions, residential and commercial real estate, zoning, land use and development, telecommunications, mediations and arbitrations, commercial litigation, title insurance, business planning and business succession, corporate/business structuring, employment discrimination law for employers, banking, creditor’s rights, finance, lender liability defense, covenants not to compete, construction law, mergers and acquisitions and other business matters.

Additional information can be found at or by calling (800) 760-1529.



As Hourigan, Kluger and Quinn addresses the concerns raised by COVID-19, the health and safety of our clients, employees and friends of the firm remain our top priority.

These are very difficult and scary times and we hope that you and your loved ones are safe and symptom free. We recognize that so many of you are understandably anxious about your health, the economic impact of this pandemic and all of the consequences of social isolation.

We also recognize that many of you are anxious about how the coronavirus is impacting the Court systems, our firm and your cases. Although all of our offices are closed, our firm has remained fully operational and we have initiated procedures that allow all of our attorneys and staff to work remotely from their homes. Each of us and our staff will respond to any emails and calls about your cases as quickly as possible.

Our Federal and State Courts have instituted significant changes in their calendars as a result of the coronavirus. Although most courthouses are closed to the public, and Hearings and Trials will be delayed for some time, there are matters that can proceed telephonically and by video. Despite these changes in the Court calendars, we are working diligently on your cases and are determined to do whatever we possibly can to assure an early and just recovery for you and your loved ones. Even under these difficult circumstances, we believe that "Nobody will work harder for you than we will."

With regard to new potential clients, we are not in a position to have an in-person new client meeting, but we will be conducting these initial meetings via phone. New potential clients should call us for a free telephone consultation at (570) 287-3000.


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