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Protective Filing

Protective Filing Status is achieved once an individual contacts the Social Security Administration (SSA) with the positive stated intent of filing for Social Security Disability benefits. Once this status is achieved, the initial contact date is considered a claimant’s application date, even if it is earlier than the date on which the SSA actually receives the completed and signed application. This earlier filing date can affect a claimant’s entitlement date, which in turn affects eligibility for benefits and back pay. Your protective filing date will be preserved for six months if you are filing under Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and for only two months if you are filing under Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Although the Social Security Administration urges you to file for Social Security Disability benefits online, the only way you can get protective filing status is to file your claim in person. In order to qualify for protective filing status, written and signed statement expressing intent to claim benefits should be delivered to the Social Security Administration. This statement can be as simple as “I intend to claim Social Security Disability benefits.” If the written statement is mailed to the SSA, the postmark will serve as the date of the statement. Although a written record may be made by a Social Security employee upon request, these records can sometimes be lost. It is therefore prudent to get a copy of the written and date-stamped statement for your records. It is an even better idea to mail this statement certified mail with return receipt requested, so that you can prove it was received.

After receiving this statement, the SSA will send you a notice telling you that your application must be filed within the next six months. The six month time period does not begin until the date the SSA mails its notice.

You can endanger your protected filing date if you miss your scheduled Social Security Disability appointment. If you miss the appointment, call Social Security immediately to reschedule. The SSA should send you a “closeout letter” which will firmly establish your protected filing period.

Although you can still apply for Social Security Disability benefits without documented protective filing status, you may lose Social Security Disability benefits to which you would otherwise have been entitled and those benefits may be substantial. It is therefore always advisable to file and keep record of a protective filing statement with your Social Security Disability office.