SSDI Backpay: How Social Security Disability “back benefits” work

SSDI Backpay: How Social Security Disability “back benefits” work

SSDI Payment

While your Social Security application is pending, it may seem like you’re losing months of potential benefits. Indeed,  since around 70% of initial applications are denied, most disabled Social Security claimants will have to wait more than 6 months before getting paid.

What happens to those months when Social Security should have been paying you but didn’t because you had not yet been approved?

Back benefits vs. ongoing benefit

When you are approved for Social Security disability benefits you are likely to get an award of “back benefits.”  Back benefits are generally payments for the months that you should have received disability payments, but didn’t because you had not yet been approved.  Back benefits are typically paid in one or more lump sums, separate from your ongoing benefit. The ongoing benefit is what you expect to receive every month from Social Security.

Back benefits in SSDI vs. SSI

Both disability benefits programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), allow for the most common type of back benefit - the payment that typically corresponds with the months between filing your application and when your application is actually approved. However, one form of back benefit is only available if you receive SSDI. With SSDI you can potentially get benefits for some months before you file your application. This type of back benefit is sometimes called a retroactive benefit. You cannot get more than 12 months of retroactive benefits with SSDI.

With SSI, you cannot get retroactive benefits - you cannot receive benefits for any period before the date of your application.

SSDI Onset Date

When Social Security looks at your medical records they must determine not only whether you are disabled, but if you are disabled when that disability began. The date they say your disability began is your Disability Onset Date.

The amount of your back benefit depends in large part on when Social Security says your disability began. This date can mean the difference of thousands of dollars in back benefits. In fact, if your claim is approved, but the onset date is much later than it should be, you may want to appeal your case just to fight over the Disability Onset Date.

SSDI Check Status - Waiting period.

If you are approved for SSI there is no waiting period to get your benefits. However, if you are approved for SSDI, there will be a five-month waiting period before your benefits (or back benefits) begin to accrue.

The SSDI waiting period means that you will begin to accrue or receive your monthly SSDI benefit in the sixth full month after your disability onset date. Social Security gives the following example:

“Example: Your disability began on June 15, 2020 and you applied on July 1, 2020. Your first benefit would be paid for the month of December 2020, the sixth full month of disability.”

Using this example, if you have appealed and don’t get your approval until much later, your back benefits will begin to accrue in December 2020.

SSDI lawyer: How to get help with your disability claim

If you’re in Alabama and you need help with a disability application, hearing, or appeal. contact Disability Alabama and we can walk you through your potential benefits and what your back benefits could look like.

If you’d like an estimate of what your monthly benefit might look like, try our Social Security Disability Benefit Calculator.