How is an individual’s disability onset date determined?

by Sep 13, 2016

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When the Social Security Administration (SSA) is evaluating an individual’s application for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, it will need to determine when the individual became disabled. In addition, the SSA will need to determine whether an individual is eligible for benefits, and if so, what the individual’s benefit pay period. An individual’s disability onset date will be based on the medical information provided to the SSA, the individual’s work history and other evidence provided to the SSA about the individual’s disability.

Most individuals seeking SSD benefits, regardless of which state they reside in, have suffered a non-traumatic medical condition. If an individual’s disability is of a non-traumatic origin, in general, four factors will be considered. Although, the weight of each factor may vary by an individual’s unique situation.


First, the individual’s testimony and proof on when the disability occurred are considered. Second, the individual’s work history is examined. The individual’s area SSA office will document the date that the individual ceased work via certain forms. Finally, the individual’s medical records and other related information are evaluated.

Sometimes, if an individual’s health gradually declines due to a medical condition, it is not possible to pinpoint precisely that individual’s disability onset date. In these cases, the SSA will infer the disability onset date, based on the medical information submitted.

The disability onset date will be determined differently in situations other than those involving a non-traumatic medical condition. These situations include those where an individual suffered a traumatic medical condition, an individual has suffered a mental condition that required hospitalization, if an individual has been disabled since he or she was a child or if the individual is blind.

Nevertheless, if a person is approved for disability benefits, payments will begin starting on the date that the individual applied for them, not the disability onset date. This post is only provides general information about disability onset dates, and cannot guarantee how any one individual’s application will be evaluated. If an individual has questions about SSD benefits and their disability onset date, he or she may want to seek legal advice.

Source:, “What is My Disability Onset Date?,” accessed on June 20, 2016