You’ve applied for benefits. After months of submitting medical proof or, possibly, years of waiting for your disability appeal hearing, you’ve finally received the happy news: you are entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. You’ll be receiving monthly benefit payments any day now, right?
Not so fast. If you are approved for benefits, you must wait five months for the monthly payments to begin. The first benefit payment you will receive will be sent on the sixth full month after the date that Social Security says your disability began.
There are actually two waiting periods when it comes to SSDI. The first is the period of time between when you apply for benefits and when you are (hopefully) ultimately approved for them. This waiting period can be extensive, especially if you, like most people, are initially denied and are forced to appeal. It can take months or years to have your disability appeal hearing and time after that for the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who oversees your hearing to make a final determination.
Social Security determines the date on which your disability began, which is referred to as your established onset date. They draw this conclusion based on the medical records that you submit with your claim.
Once Social Security has determined your established onset date, you may be entitled to receive back benefits in addition to your regular, monthly benefit payments. The maximum back pay allowed to any SSDI recipient is twelve months. The clock starts running as of the established onset date.
Why does a waiting period exist? Social Security wants to ensure that benefits are not being paid to people who are only temporarily disabled. You must be totally disabled to qualify for SSDI benefits, so mandating the waiting period weeds out beneficiaries whose conditions may have improved and deem them no longer eligible.
You may be wondering if Social Security’s Compassionate Allowance factors into the waiting period. Compassionate Allowance refers to people who suffer from conditions that are severe enough to automatically guarantee their approval for SSDI benefits. If your condition falls into this category, your claim will receive an expedited review. That will reduce the amount of time that you have to wait to receive a final decision (sometimes in as little as ten days), but it does nothing to eliminate the mandatory five-month waiting period.
Please note, if you qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you will not be subjected to the mandatory waiting period. Your benefits will begin on the first month after Social Security approves your claim. Similarly, no waiting period applies if you are a dependent of a disabled worker seeking benefits.