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What SSDI Applicants Need to Know About Back Pay

Unable to work because of a disabling injury or illness? If you’ve applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and are expecting the first check to arrive in your mailbox or bank account before next month’s bills are due, you’re in for a major disappointment.

The SSDI application process is grueling and because of the substantial backlog, it’s often lengthy. Only 30 percent of applicants are approved at the initial stage and despite the relatively speedy processing, it can still take three to six months from submission to approval. For applicants forced to appeal a denial, the process can take much, much longer—more than a year for people appealing the decision at the reconsideration level or at a hearing in front of an administrative law judge, and several years for those appealing to the Appeals Council or in federal court.

By the time you’re finally approved for SSDI benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may owe you more than monthly disability checks moving forward; you may be entitled to back pay for the time you spent waiting. A highly-skilled Social Security disability attorney can help you fight for back pay and maximize the amount you receive.

Types of SSDI Back Payments

Back pay covers the months between the dates you submitted your SSDI application and were approved for benefits, following a five-month mandatory waiting period. This is the most common type of back pay for SSDI recipients.

An adept disability attorney may also be able to help you secure retroactive benefits for the months between your date of diagnosis and the date you applied for SSDI. These are the benefits you would have received had you applied sooner. You can only collect retroactive benefits for up to a year in most cases.

Understanding When Disability Payments Begin

Onset dates and waiting periods determine when you’re eligible to start receiving disability payments. The date you filed for SSDI benefits is your onset date, and the date the SSA will use to calculate your back payments. However, if you were disabled for a significant period of time prior to filing for benefits, you’ll need a well-versed disability attorney to help you challenge and correct the established onset date (EOD).

The SSA also imposes a mandatory five-month waiting period to SSDI claims, which means you have to wait for five months following your onset date before you’re eligible to start receiving payments. Additionally, even after you’re approved for benefits, you won’t be able to collect back pay for the initial five-month period.

Calculating SSDI Back Payments

Here’s a simple formula to help you estimate your back pay:

  1. Count the number of months between your EOD and the date you were finally approved for SSDI benefits.
  2. Subtract the five-month waiting period from the months between the application and approval dates.
  3. Count the months between your EOD and application date to determine retroactive months.
  4. The number of months between the EOD and approval date, minus the five-month waiting period, plus the retroactive months, times your monthly payment equals the total amount of back pay due.

Talk to a disability attorney for a more targeted estimate of your potential back pay.

When You Win an Award for SSDI Back Pay

SSDI back payments are paid in one lump sum, though when you receive the sum can vary. Additionally, because Social Security disability attorneys work on contingency, rather than charging clients upfront, the SSA will deduct the attorneys’ fee before paying you the lump sum settlement.

Consult an Experienced Social Security Disability Attorney

When applying for SSDI benefits, did you wait months or even years between application and approval? You may be entitled to back payments. O’Connor Law PLLC’s exceptional Social Security disability attorneys in New York are particularly well versed in the SSA’s rules for back pay. We can help you understand your rights, explore your legal options, calculate how much you’re owed, and maximize the back payment you collect. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation.

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