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How Are Past Due Benefits Calculated?

While not everyone finds themselves in a situation in which they are entitled to past due Social Security Disability benefits, many disability applicants who must endure the lengthy and complex disability appeal process are indeed entitled to past due benefits once their disability claims have been approved. This is due to the fact that the Social Security Administration (SSA), upon finding the person disabled, must pay that individual for benefits for the time that it took them to appeal the SSA’s denial of their initial disability claim. For some disability recipients this means a few months of back pay, but for others it means years of payments that are due. How exactly does the SSA calculate how much is due in past due disability benefits when an applicant is approved?

  • Date of Application

    The first thing a disability applicant must consider is their application date. When an individual applies for Social Security Disability benefits they can be considered eligible for benefits from the date of that application or, in some cases, even one year prior to the date of the application (known as the retroactive period).

    If an individual is immediately approved for disability benefits but qualifies for the one-year retroactive period of benefits, then he or she may be entitled to back pay even though they did not have to endure the appeal process. In this case, the applicant would be eligible for benefits from one year prior to their application date.

  • Date of Eligibility

    Another factor that plays a role in how benefits are calculated is the date of eligibility. This is the date that the SSA determines you become eligible for disability benefits. If you applied for disability benefits and the SSA determined you had been disabled for 20 months prior to the date of your application, then you would be entitled to 12 months of back pay. If, however, the SSA determines that you were eligible only four months prior to the date of your application, you would not be eligible for back pay if you were awarded benefits without an appeal because you would not have met the five-month waiting period that the SSA requires.

  • Calculating the Amount

    As a general rule, to figure out the amount of back pay that you are entitled to, you would look at the date of your disability application and the date the SSA determines you became disabled. You would then count each month (starting one year back from the date of your application assuming you were determined to be disabled five months prior to that year) to the date you are awarded benefits. For each of those months that you were not paid benefits, the SSA would owe you back payment of benefits.

    If you are eligible for back payments for SSDI, those payments will be made in a one-time lump-sum payment. If you are eligible for back payments for SSI, those payments will be split into three different payments that are set six months apart.

Comments

If a person applies foir SSI with an attorney, and 7 years go by and that attorney hasn't gotten your benefits yet, then you get another Representative that helps you get SSI in 5 months, shouldn't you get 'back pay' for those 7 years also? This did not happen.

Hi Forrest,
You would only be eligible for back pay from the time you are determined to be disabled by the SSA, not the time that it took from initial application to approval.