Social Security Back Pay

What Is SSDI Back Pay?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Back Pay refers to benefits payments you would have received from the time when you applied for benefits to that when your claim was approved, minus a 5 month waiting period. Retroactive SSDI back pay can also include compensation for when you were diagnosed with your disability to when you were approved for SSDI. 

You will receive your accrued SSDI Back Pay after you are approved for benefits. Thus, SSDI Back Pay is not one of the signs your disability claim will be approved because it is something you find out about after your claim is approved for disability benefits. However, while social security back pay isn't one such sign, there are some other signs your disability claim will be approved. Some of these signs include making sure you present sufficient medical evidence, proving you can't work and have earned enough work credits, earning less than Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), etc. 

Since most claims are denied benefits one or more times before the claimant is approved for benefits, the Social Security application process is usually lengthy, and months or years can go by while waiting for approval. Social Security Back Pay is just another term for past due benefits that have accrued during the approval process. 

What Is The Disability Back Pay Maximum?

It’s very common for people to have their application for disability benefits take a long time to be processed. Very often, you can expect to wait at least several months to find out if your application for disability benefits was approved or not. If your application is approved, you are eligible to receive social security back pay. Back pay is money that is paid to you for the time that were eligible for Social Security disability benefits but weren’t yet approved or receiving benefits.  

The amount of money that you will be paid for disability back pay depends on when you applied for disability as well as what the amount of your disability benefit is. But you can be paid back disability for up to 12 months. So, if you applied for disability benefits and then had to wait 12 months for your application to be approved you will be paid 12 months of benefits in a lump sum to make up for the 12-month period that you were eligible for benefits but had not received them. 

If your application takes longer than 12 months to process, or if your application is denied the first time and must go through reconsideration, you can still receive up to 12 months of disability back pay once your application is approved. However, you won’t receive more than 12 months of social security back pay even if you have been waiting longer than a year for your application is approved.

How Is SSDI Back Pay Determined?

Social Security Back Pay is determined in relation to the date you filed your disability claim and the date that the Social Security Administration (SSA) decides that your disability began, also known as the “established onset date.” The established onset date is determined by a DDS examiner or an administrative law judge, based on your available medical records.

How Social Security Back Pay is distributed will depend on whether a claimant is approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, or both.

SSI disability benefits accrue from the date that you filed your application. Even though you may have been subsisting on very limited resources for months, you will not always receive your Social Security Back Pay immediately after your case is approved. Sometimes the Social Security waiting period is longer if your case must be decided by an administrative law judge. In addition, SSI Back Pay is paid incrementally only, meaning you won’t receive all of your Social Security Back Pay in a lump sum as you would with SSDI. The stated reason for the delay is that lump sum payments would put too much of a strain on SSI’s financial resources.

Take our Social Security benefits calculator to see how much you could get with disability benefits.

If You Are Awarded Back Pay

If you are awarded both SSDI and SSI benefits, you may have to wait longer for your Social Security Back Pay than you would if you were only receiving SSDI benefits. Thus, once again, Back Pay is not one of the signs your disability claim will be approved because people who receive Back Pay have already had their claim approved. 

Social security back pay can accrue either from the initial date of application, or as far back as twelve months prior to the date of application, less a five-month waiting period. The five-month waiting period is, for all practical purposes, an arbitrary elimination of what would have been your first five months of benefits. The longer you wait for approval of your case, therefore, the less this waiting period will affect you. To better understand the 5 month waiting period, we can look at two examples:

  • If your claim is approved five months after you apply for benefits, you will not be entitled to Back Pay (5 month approval process, less 5 month waiting period). If your claim is approved a year after application, you will be entitled to seven months of Back Pay (12 month approval process, less 5 month waiting period).
  • If your claim is approved 24 months after application, your will be entitled to 12 months of Back Pay (even though a 24 month waiting period less a 5 month waiting period is 19 months, the limit for Back Pay is 12 months).

Unlike SSI, Back Pay owed under SSDI can be received as a lump sum, although when payment will arrive is somewhat unpredictable. It has happened that a beneficiary finds his or her social security Back Pay benefits deposited without notice to their bank account even before they are notified that their disability claim has been approved. Sometimes a person receives regular benefits prior to Back Pay, but other times the Back Pay is paid first.

Your benefits may also be adjusted in accordance with Social Security’s windfall offset provisions. The amount of SSI benefits awarded is based on a claimant’s income, so, if you qualify for disability under both SSDI and SSI, your Back Pay under SSDI will count as income for SSI purposes. When Back Pay is paid, your SSI benefits will automatically be reduced to take into consideration this Back Pay “income.” The adjustment to SSI benefits is calculated by treating your SSDI Back Pay as having been available to you throughout the disability period.

To find out what medical conditions automatically qualify for disability, click here

2 Minutes To See If You Qualify

In many cases, a qualified Social Security Disability attorney can provide invaluable help in establishing a favorable onset date so that you are awarded the most social security Back Pay possible. Fill out our Free Disability Evaluation to speak with an attorney or disability advocate.  When working with a disability lawyer, a disability lawyer will be able to tell you how much in disability you can get, including how much back pay you might be able to get.

Curious what conditions automatically qualify you for disability? Click here to find out.

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