If you apply for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA) when does claim approval result in back pay? It all depends on whether you qualify for monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits. First, we’ll explain how the SSA calculates SSDI back pay for eligible beneficiaries.
When You May Qualify for SSDI Back Pay
If you’re too disabled to keep working, chances are good that your condition didn’t develop overnight. Depending on the date your disability actually began, you may be owed back pay. It all depends on how long you waited to apply for benefits after your doctor initially diagnosed your disabling condition.
Why Is the Date Important for Getting SSDI Back Pay?
Your alleged onset date (AOD) is the date your disability began. The SSA automatically sets your default AOD to the date when you first applied for disability benefits. This is the exact date when you could no longer keep working, specifically due to your disability. Once your claim’s approved, the DDS medical examiners replace your AOD with an established onset date (EOD) to use instead. Your SSDI back pay includes past-due payments you’re owed from the mandatory five-month waiting period that begins with your EOD. If your EOD is June 1, 2021, and you file on July 1, you’ll get 6 months of SSDI back pay.
How Does SSDI Lump-Sum Backpay Differ From Retroactive Payments?
SSDI back pay covers any past-due checks the SSA would’ve sent to you if your claim was approved immediately. That means once your claim’s approved, the SSA automatically owes you five months of SSDI back pay, at minimum. You won’t receive a check until the start of the sixth full month after your EOD, which can be confusing. For example: You filed your claim on January 1, your claim’s approved July 1, so your first SSDI check arrives August 1.
However, there are some cases where the SSA may also owe you retroactive pay for a maximum of 12 months. Retroactive pay covers the 12 months before your EOD, if your disability started before your filing date. To qualify for the full 12 months, your disability must begin 17 months prior to the date you filed your claim. Since DDS medical examiners set your EOD, you’ll need medical records that establish an earlier onset date to dispute it.
How to Qualify for More Than a Year of SSDI Retroactive Pay
If you’ve had your condition for years before applying for disability benefits, you may qualify for retroactive pay. To determine whether you may qualify for retroactive payments, all three things below must apply to your case:
- Your disability claim’s already approved
- Your EOD started more than five months before the SSA approved your claim
- There’s no official reason to withhold any payments (i.e., child support, income taxes)
If you believe the DDS medical examiners set an inaccurate EOD for your claim, you can try to appeal it. Keep in mind that you cannot qualify for more than 17 months of retroactive payments (which includes SSDI back pay). So, it’s possible you became disabled much sooner than that, but cannot receive additional payments for earlier months.
To dispute your EOD for any months you believe you’re rightfully owed SSDI back pay, you’ll likely need:
- Lab results/tests that support your request
- Your treating physician’s completed mental and/or physical RFC forms
- Any previous disability claims you filed with the SSA, if you already applied for benefits but had to start the process all over again
Does SSI Offer Lump-Sum Backpay?
If you qualify for SSI but not SSDI, you can still qualify for some back pay. Since SSI payments begin one full month after your claim’s approved, SSI back pay covers the month prior to that. So if you filed on January 1 and got approved on August 1, your first check arrives on September 1. You’ll also receive SSI back pay going back to January 1, usually paid in installments.
Unfortunately, SSI beneficiaries cannot receive retroactive payments. That’s because SSDI gets paid from FICA taxes withheld from beneficiaries’ past paychecks, which belong solely to that applicant. SSI benefits are paid directly from the U.S. Treasury general tax fund, not Social Security taxes (also known as FICA). Claimants who haven’t worked full-time for five of the last 10 years (or pay FICA taxes) cannot qualify for SSDI. However, you may be eligible for monthly SSI, provided you meet all medical and non-medical requirements. Learn more about the differences between SSDI and SSI.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
You’re 3x more likely to get monthly benefits as well as lump-sum back pay if a Social Security attorney files your claim. Since these lawyers work on contingency, you’ll owe $0 in legal fees unless you win. Worried that you can’t afford a lawyer? We offer free, no-obligation claim help over the phone to all who qualify for legal assistance. And if a lawyer helps you win, then you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now:
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.