Retroactive Benefits and Social Security Disability


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Social Security Disability

The Social Security disability claims process can be slow, sometimes frustratingly so. The SSA estimates that an Initial Application takes an average of four to six months to get approved—with the majority of disability claims taking far longer than that. 

Of course, the process does not start moving until a person submits their Initial Application. For a number of reasons, disabled people may delay in filing for SSDI benefits. Fortunately, those initial months of disability may still be covered through a type of compensation called a ‘retroactive’ benefit.

What are Retroactive SSDI Benefits and How are They Calculated 

Retroactive disability benefits are payments approved to cover the period between the onset of the disability and the date that the disability application was submitted. This is distinct from back pay, which covers the months between the filing date and the approval.

As an example of how retroactive benefits work, imagine that an applicant becomes disabled in January. In November, they decided to make a claim for Social Security disability benefits. Several months later, their application was approved. 

Retroactive disability benefits may be some of the months prior to when they filed their application. Though, not for the entire period. This is because SSDI claims are subject to a five-month waiting period. If an applicant waits six months to apply, one month falls outside of the waiting period and, thus, could be covered by retroactive benefits. It is important to note that retroactive benefits are capped at 12 months. 

Why You Should Be Ready to Hire a Lawyer 

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Unfortunately, retroactive disability benefits can sometimes be difficult to obtain. Applicants seeking payment for retroactive benefits or back pay should be ready to consult with an experienced disability lawyer, such as the team at the Social Security Law Group. An attorney will make sure that your claim receives a fair review. Among other things, a legal advocate can: 

  • Listen to your story and explain your rights and options;
  • Gather the proper documentation; and
  • Take action to help you maximize your retroactive disability benefits.

In most retroactive disability claims, the key issue is proving the Established Onset Date (EOD) to the SSA. As a default rule, the date an applicant files an SSDI claim is considered to be their EOD. To get the onset date shifted backward—thereby potentially allowing for the recovery of retroactive benefits —strong supporting evidence is required. An experienced Social Security disability attorney can help. 

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