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Waiting Period

If you have applied for Social Security Disability benefits, then you will soon become acquainted with the term “waiting period”. There are several long waiting periods associated with the Social Security Disability claims process.

The first waiting period is the time between the date you file for benefits and the date you receive your first Social Security disability check. This waiting period can be a long one; most people’s disability claims are denied several times and have to go through a series of reviews before they are allowed.

Another waiting period is the five-month waiting period during which Social Security does not pay benefits after you have been approved to receive them. It sounds confusing, but what it comes down to is that Social Security will not pay your first five months of benefits unless your case has been working its way through the system for at least 17 months.

When you are approved for disability benefits, you are given a date on which Social Security Administration (SSA) determines your disability to have begun. This date, called an established onset date, is decided based on the medical records you submit with your Social Security Disability claim. Your disability payments are keyed off this date. The maximum back pay (or accrued benefits or past due benefits) allowed to an Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipient is 12 months. The twelve month clock starts as of your established onset date. SSDI benefits are reduced by the five-month waiting period. The best way to understand the mechanics of the system is through an example.

If your established onset date is five months prior to the date your claim is approved, you will receive no back pay for those five months (5 – 5 = 0). If, however, your established onset date is 16 months prior to the date of approval, you will receive 11 months of past due benefits (16 – 5 = 11). The maximum number of months of past due benefits (back pay) a beneficiary can receive is 12 months. So if the time between your established onset date is 20 months prior to your approval date, you will get all 12 months of allowable back pay (20 – 5 = 15 months, but the maximum number of months that will be paid is 12).

There may be a reason for this seemingly arbitrary rule, but no explanation is forthcoming from Social Security. It is what it is.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients will get their Social Security disability benefits beginning as of their established onset date and they are not subject to the five month waiting period.