If I apply for disability and my doctor says I am disabled, is there a waiting period to receive benefits?

If I am designated disabled by a doctor and I am applying for SS disability benefits, is there any waiting period from the time of becoming disabled?

Social Security Disability is based upon two things: having at least one severe medical impairment AND the inability to work at a level considered to be SGA or substantial gainful activity. To see the current amount for SGA earnings, click here: How much can you earn and still get Social Security Disability?

If you meet the medical criteria for disability and have stopped working, or your earnings have been reduced to an amount below the SGA limit in effect for the year in question, you will be considered disabled and eligible to receive ongoing monthly disability benefits.

Regarding waiting periods, all Social Security Disability applicants have a five month waiting period, even if they have been determined disabled by a doctor. This waiting period is similar in concept to an elimination period on a private insurance policy.

Why does the Social Security waiting period exist? My guess would be that it was cost-savings mechanism. It basically serves the purpose of confiscating an approved claimant's first five months of disability benefits.

How does the five month waiting period work? Your disability benefits will begin with the six month following the month you became disabled, according to the determination rendered by the Social Security Administration (please bear in mind that this may not be the same date that you allege on your initial disability claim as the EOD, or established date of onset must be proven by the medical evidence and vocational evidence that is accumulated.

If you are filing for SSI disability, the SGA limit (the limit on how much you can work and earn while still remaining eligible to receive disability benefits) applies, but there is no waiting period. If you filed for SSI and are found disabled, then your disability benefits entitlement date is controlled by your date of filing.

I hope this is helpful.

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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If I apply for disability and my doctor says I am disabled, is there a waiting period to receive benefits?