When you have a debilitating medical event, experience severe illness or suffer through an accident that leaves you permanently injured, Social Security Disability benefits may become the only real option for you to support yourself and your family. Unfortunately, connecting with Social Security Disability Insurance benefits takes quite a bit of time.
Depending on the exact diagnosis you have and which Social Security Administration (SSA) field office handles your application, your waiting time could extend well over a year. During that time, you will likely struggle financially. The knowledge that you should receive back pay for the time when you qualified but were waiting for benefits is the light at the end of the tunnel. You can expect a lump sum back payment for all of those months when the SSA finally approved your application.
Understanding how back pay works and what you qualify for can make it easier to advocate for yourself as you navigate the Social Security system. It can also help you better plan for what benefits you will receive and budget your finances accordingly.
The date that you became unable to work is an important one
The SSA refers to the date when you received your diagnosis or suffered your injury as the date of onset. On that day, you became officially unable to continue working and earning an income. However, that date is not the date from which you can start collecting back pay.
There is a universal five-month waiting period that applies to every Social Security Disability application. You cannot collect benefits for those months, regardless of when you apply. Thankfully, five months from the date of onset is when you can expect to begin collecting benefits.
Many times, you will wait substantially longer to receive an approval and your first disbursement. However, the Social Security Administration will go as far back as that date, five months after you became unable to work, when they issue your benefits. The sooner you apply after realizing you will need the benefits, the more likely you are to secure benefits going farther back.
Don’t let an initial denial keep you from the support you need
Receiving a denial for your initial application may feel frustrating, but it is relatively common. People can and do successfully argue their need for Social Security Disability benefits in front of an administrative law judge after an initial denial all the time. Waiting for your first payments can be difficult, but with support and planning, you can make it work.
You can use that time while you wait for a hearing to gather evidence, thereby helping to ensure that you can secure an approval and the back pay you need to cover your expenses.