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How Does Social Security Disability Back Pay Work?

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It may seem odd to someone new to the process, but it sometimes becomes necessary to understand the concept of back pay in terms of Social Security benefits. This is because the process of applying for and getting accepted to Social Security can take a very long time — sometimes months.

When you’re injured, disabled or otherwise in need of these benefits while your bills stack up, the question of how far back you can collect payments becomes important. Discover how Social Security disability back pay works, how far back it goes, and why having a Social Security disability lawyer can be very helpful.

Retroactive to Established Onset

When you apply for Social Security disability, you’ll need to determine what is called an “onset date.” This is the date that your disability occurred — the moment you became impaired to the point that you couldn’t hold down gainful employment, or which interfered with your ability to do so.

The SSA will determine a date of disability which they call the EOD, or “Established Onset Date.” If this date is prior to the date when you began your application, you should be able to gain back pay or retroactive benefits, to that EOD.

EOD is different from “Medical Onset Date,” or MOD, which is the date when you qualified as disabled for SSDI. EOD is established as the date that the following additional qualifications are met:

  1.      You can no longer perform your prior work
  2.      You cannot perform other kinds of work
  3.      Your disability will continue for at least a year or will result in your death
  4.      You have enough work credits, the right legal status, and other eligibility criteria.

The Waiting Period

SSDI requires a five month waiting period after your EOD before you can begin collecting benefits. This five month period begins on the first of the month after your EOD, unless your EOD is on the first of the month. Thus, if your EOD is the second day of the month, your five month period could be nearly six months long. You don’t receive benefits for this waiting period.

If you are the child of a disabled person collecting SSDI benefits, you are not subject to this waiting period. Likewise, if you stop and start your benefits again, the five month period doesn’t start over, so long as it is less than five years since your stop date.

Limits to Back Pay

Regardless of how long it takes you to apply for and get through the waiting period for your SSDI benefits, the SSA will only pay you a maximum of one year (12 months) of retroactive back pay, not counting your waiting period.

Hiring a Social Security Disability Lawyer

Applying for SSDI benefits can be confusing, complex and frustrating. The best way to ensure you understand the process, avoid mistakes, and get the benefits you need and deserve, is to hire an experienced disability lawyer like those at Harris and Graves. We’ve helped many people navigate their Social Security disability applications, and we can help you as well. Complete our online contact form or give us a call to discuss your case today!