How Far Back Can SSI Back Pay Be Paid?

Supplemental Security Insurance disability, or SSI as it is more commonly known, is a disability program that is administered by the Social Security Administration. How far back a person's SSI benefits go are determined by when a person files for benefits.

SSI back pay, begins to accrue from the date a disability claim under SSI is filed. So, typically an individual will start a disability application and the claim, because of denials and various appeals that have to be filed, will take quite a while. If it takes, for example, two years, then Social Security will owe the claimant two years of disability back pay benefits.

This is a little different from SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). If a person is approved for SSDI, Social Security will determine how much back pay a person is owed but eliminate the first five months of benefits owed. This is called the five month waiting period. SSI, however, has no waiting period.

Above, we said that the date of filing is the date that SSI back pay benefits start from. But it is more accurate to put it this way: Social Security considers the date a person first contacted Social Security for a disability interview to be their protected date of filing. This is important because it generally takes a few days or even a few weeks to get an appointment to file for disability benefits, assuming that you are not filing online.

How much SSI back pay can you get

SSI back pay can become a substantial amount simply because of the nature of the disability process, which usually involves being denied once or twice before potentially winning disability at a hearing, after which back pay can easily amount to tens of thousands of dollars. The key, of course, is that back pay grows because the system is slow and takes a lot of time.

Once a person completes their disability application, their claim is sent to a state agency (DDS, or disability determination services) that is responsible for making disability decisions for Social Security. Most initial disability decisions take an average of 100 days for a decision to be made unless the person has:

A) A terminal illness.

B) A condition that is considered a fast track for an approval (QDD or quick disability decision).

C) They have conditions that are on the compassionate allowance list.

Unfortunately, only about three percent of all disability cases are any of the above listed exceptions to the average disability case processing time.

If a person's initial disability claim is denied, they must file an appeal for their claim for SSI benefits. Social Security allows sixty-five total days from the date of the denial notice to receive an appeal. Once the appeal is completed, it is forwarded back to the state disability agency for a reconsideration of the initial denial.

How long do appeals take?

Reconsideration appeals generally take an average of sixty days to receive a decision. If the reconsideration appeal is denied, the claimant can file a request for an administrative law judge hearing.

The wait time for an administrative law judge ALJ hearing is the longest of the disability claim processing levels. It can take months or even years for a person to be scheduled for a hearing before an administrative law judge. Social Security is working to shorten the wait time, but with record numbers of individuals appealing their disability claims to administrative law judges, it can still be a very long wait for a hearing.

If a person has to appeal their disability claim all the way to an administrative law judge hearing, they are realistically looking at an average of 18, and possibly 36, months or more before they are approved for SSI disability benefits (provided they win their disability hearing).

However, even if it takes this amount of time to be approved for SSI disability benefits, Social Security will back pay a person to the date they first contacted Social Security for their disability claim.

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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