Social Security Q&A

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When do I get Social Security backpay?

Question from Phred:

I started receiving disability benefits about 2 yrs ago. I didn't work for about 6-8 months before my disability kicked in. Am I entitled to back pay? I just heard of someone being approved for disability and receiving a check for the months that it took to become approved.

Response from Alan:

Dear Phred--

There are three important dates that determine whether or not you are due some back pay, or "retroactive benefits" as SSA calls them:

1. The date you filed for benefits;
2. The date you became disabled; and
3. The date the final decision was made on your claim.

The date you filed is important because your claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be effective retroactively for as much as 12 months before the date you filed your claim.

Of course, it can't be retroactive to a month before you were entitled, and that's where the date you became disabled comes into play. There is a 5 (full) month waiting period between the date you first became disabled and your first month of entitlement. For example, if you became disabled on March 22, 2005, your waiting period would be April-May-June-July-August, and your first check would be due for September 2005. Like paychecks, SSDI benefits are paid for the period that just passed, so the September check would arrive in October.

Finally (and pretty obviously) if the decision on your claim is made after your first check is due, you are due backpay for any missing months.

So, if your claim is approved during the waiting period there won't be any backpay due; you'll get your first check right on time. If the deicision is made AFTER your waiting period, you'll be due some backpay.

(It's important to note that the other disability program SSA administers, Supplemental Security Income or "SSI" can NOT be retroactive. It doesn't have a waiting period, but it's effective only with the month you file.)

Hope this helps clear things up!


December 3, 2007


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