Applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits is a lengthy process. The Social Security Administration (SSA) typically takes three to five months to approve a new claim. If your initial claim receives a rejection, an appeal to an administrative law judge can take 12 months or longer.
The SSA does, in some cases, offer back pay to account for delays with your application. Back pay covers the disability payments you qualified for before the SSA approved your claim. You may qualify for Social Security payments as far back as 12 months before the date of your application.
There are several steps that you will have to take to maximize your back pay benefits. Consulting with the disability attorneys at the Disability Advantage Group as soon as possible will ensure that you are taking the appropriate steps to draw Social Security benefits. Call us at 865-546-1111 to discuss your claim before you apply.
When will the SSA consider me disabled?
The SSA has a strict definition of disability. In order to qualify for benefits, you must have a medically verifiable condition that prevents you from working at your current job or adjusting to new employment. Your doctor must also expect your condition to last at least 12 months or to result in your death.
Depending on the program you apply for, you may also need to meet work history requirements or fall below a certain income threshold and have limited assets.
How long do I have to wait before applying for disability?
If, however, you are applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), this waiting period does not apply and you can file your claim immediately. The SSI program only provides benefits to disabled individuals with very limited income and resources, so you may want to contact one of our disability attorneys to see if you qualify before you apply.
After you apply for benefits, the SSA will review your application to determine your established onset date (EOD). Your EOD is the date that your disability officially began. An examiner from your local Disability Determination Services (DDS) office sets this date based on your medical records and work history.
How far back will the SSA pay me?
If the SSA approved your application for SSDI benefits, they may offer you up to 12 months of retroactive payments to make up for any time gaps between your EOD and the date of your approval.
Keep in mind that your eligibility for the SSDI program includes the five-month waiting period. If your disability began one year prior to your approval, the SSA will only offer retroactive payments for the seven months after your waiting period ended.
If the SSA approved you for the SSI program, you qualify for benefit payments the first month after your EOD. The SSA will issue back pay to make up for the time that elapsed between then and the date of your approval. You may receive your first payment within 60 days of your approval.
The SSA issues back pay in three installments paid in six-month intervals. The first two payments will match your monthly benefit amount, while the SSA pays the remainder of your back pay in the third installment.
What is a protective filing date?
Whether you are applying for SSDI or SSI, you can request a protective filing date—a date earlier than the date of your disability application.
Because SSDI works like an insurance policy, it is only available to for workers whose jobs have paid taxes to Social Security. If you apply for disability benefits after the last day you worked, the SSA may deny your claim on the basis that the policy no longer covers you.
To protect against this, you may send a written statement of intent to file for SSDI to the SSA. You should do this prior to leaving your job. Initiating an online application, even if it is incomplete, can also preserve your protective filing date.
How can I file for a protective filing date?
In order to establish your protective filing date, you should send a letter to the SSA that includes the following:
- A clear statement of intent to file disability within six months of sending the letter;
- Your application number, if you initiated a disability claim online; and
- Your signature or the signature of a qualified third party.
Once you have established this protective filing date, you must complete your application within six months to preserve it.
What documentation will I need to receive benefits prior to my application date?
In order to maximize your chances at back pay, you will want to seek medical attention and document your disability as early as possible, taking care to follow medical orders and document the progression of your condition to show its extent and permanence. These medical records will let the SSA know when your disability began and inform them of the severity of your impairment.
To expedite the review of your application and to maximize the duration of your back pay, your application should include your protective filing date and a copy of the letter you sent to the SSA, as well as comprehensive medical and work history documentation showing the date of your disability.
How can I get help filing my claim?
Applying for SSD benefits is a complicated process. The disability attorneys at the Disability Advantage Group can help you file your application or navigate the appeals process to get you the benefits you need to help with medical bills, housing costs, and other costs of living. Call us today at 865-546-1111 for a free consultation.