Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it

What is Social Security back pay and will you get disability back pay? Both SSDI back pay and SSI back pay are based upon the date you became unable to work due to a medical or mental condition.

Many disability applicants are eligible for a back payment of disability benefits once they are approved. Note I said many. Not all disability applicants are eligible for disability back pay benefits.

For example, an individual who performed SGA level work activity --meaning they engaged in work activity and earned at least as much as the SGA cutoff in effect for a given year (See How much can you earn and still receive disability?) --up until the date they filed for disability benefits may not have any back pay because their entitlement date for disability benefits is a future date, meaning that no back pay benefits would have accrued.

What Back Pay depends on

Back pay depends upon the type of disability benefits an applicant is entitled to receive, the date they became disabled i.e. the onset date of disability, the date they filed their application, and how long it takes Social Security to approve them for disability.

If a disability claim has to go to an administrative law judge hearing, the claimant's back pay will be substantially larger than the back pay of an individual who is approved for disability benefits at the initial claim or reconsideration appeal level.

SSI and Back Pay

If you qualify for SSI disability, a need-based disability benefit program, you will be entitled to receive benefits as far back as your date of disability application, provided you meet the non-medical requirements regarding the income and resource limitations of the program, in addition to the medical qualifications. of course, if your case goes on for very long (this is usually true), then your back pay benefits may be substantial.

Note: If an individual is entitled to Social Security Disability benefits only, then the entire back payment is released to them when their claim is processed. But, if an individual is awarded SSI only, then the rules are different as SSI back pay is paid in installments.

SSD and Back pay

If you qualify for Social Security Disability, you will be entitled to benefits as far back as your date of application and potentially even 12 months retroactive to this. Therefore, you may also be entitled to substantial back pay benefits depending on how long your claim takes.

Unfortunately, however, for Social Security Disability applicants, there is a a five month waiting period, which simply means that after you have been approved, the social security administration will eliminate your first five months of benefits. This usually will not affect how long it actually takes to begin receiving your benefits because most claimants are entitled to years of back pay benefits. But keep in mind that the social security administration will essentially hold back what would have been your first five months of payments.

The five month waiting period generally begins with the month following the EOD (established date of onset, which is Social Security's determination of when you became disabled according to the medical and vocational evidence), unless the EOD is the first or second day of the month.

If a disability beneficiary's date of onset is the first or second day of the month, the month can be included as the first month of the five-month disability waiting period. This waiting period effectively reduces the amount of any back payment of Social Security Disability benefits. Social Security never pays for disability monetary benefits for the five months of the waiting period.

How long will it take your receive your Social Security Disability back pay?

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this question. It may take some time to receive your Social Security back pay, especially if you were awarded your disability benefits at a disability hearing by a federal judge.

Moreover, you may not receive your disability back pay in one lump sum, if you are approved for SSI disability as opposed to Social Security Disability. Supplemental Security Income recipients can only receive their back pay in increments, so as not to interfere with the income and resource limits of the program.

Furthermore, Social Security Disability recipients may have to wait longer to receive their back pay if there are any SSI benefits involved (which may be the case if an individual has a concurrent claim, i.e. a claim for both Social Security Disability and SSI).

Lastly, Social Security pays SSDI and SSI back pay differently. Social Security Disability beneficiaries receive their back pay disability benefit in one lump sum, while SSI disability beneficiaries receive their back payment in installments that basically allow for an initial payment, one six months later and a final installment at the one year mark.

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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