What is the difference between receiving back pay for SSD and SSI?

I need to file for disability but I am confused about SSI and SSD. Do you get back pay for both, and is there a difference in what you get?

When you contact a local Social Security field office to file a claim for disability (and I would advise this over trying to use the online process since A) you will actually speak with a living person who can answer questions and B) there is no online process for SSI currently and you probably won't be aware of which program you actually qualify for), they will determine which program you can have a claim take.

To answer your basic question, I need to explain how disability applications actually work. When you file for disability--regardless of whether the Social Security office takes a claim for SSD (Social Security Disability) or SSI (Supplemental security income, a disability program for individuals who have not, as a result of work activity, become insured and, thus, eligible for SSD)--the following things occur.

1. You claim that you are disabled currently.

2. You provide a time, or onset date for when your disability began.

3. You provide a list of medical treatment sources so a disability examiner can obtain records from those sources to prove that A) you are currently disabled and B) that your disability began as of a certain point in time.

Now, if you are approved for disability benefits, an EOD, or established onset date will be set. This, as I indicated, is when Social Security believes you became disabled, according to the evidence that they reviewed. This date may or may not agree with the date you provided on your disability application, known as your AOD, or alleged onset date.

How far back will you receive benefits? It depends on whether your claim is for SSI or SSD. If your claim is for SSI, you will receive back pay all the way back to your time of application for SSI, provided the evidence supports this. It could be that your claim, from start to finish, and including appeals, takes two or three years. If so, you could end up receiving two or three years of back pay on your SSI claim.

Now, let me answer this same question for SSD.

How far back will you receive benefits? Potentially, as far back as the medical evidence can prove that your condition (or conditions) was disabling enough, meaning severe enough to satisfy Social Security requirements. If you claim that you became disabled two years before you filed, then you may potentially receive back pay for those two years, provided that your evidence supports this claim. This is, at the risk of sounding redundant, known as back pay.

What is the difference between receiving back pay for SSD and SSI? In both cases, you can end up receiving back pay for literally years of time if your claim has dragged on that long.

But for SSI, now matter how far back you allege that your disability began, your back pay can only accumulate from the time that you actually filed your claim. The clock starts ticking from the date of application. For Social Security Disability, you can potentially receive benefits for 12 retroactive months prior to your actual date of application.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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