When Will my Social Security Disability Benefits Become Effective?

When your application for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits is approved, your entitlement to receive disability payments will start from the fifth full month that the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines your disability began. During this initial five (5) month waiting period, you are not eligible to receive disability benefits. For example, if the SSA determines that your disability began on May 15, your eligibility to receive SSD payments will begin in October, which is five (5) months later. Since Social Security payments are paid in the following month, you would receive your first payment in November.

Most claimants’ initial applications for disability benefits are denied, leading to appeals that can take up to three (3) years from the date of the first application. Due to the lengthy process, many claimants are entitled to receive retroactive or back SSD payments. These back payments can be paid for any onset date before the favorable decision. However, the maximum back pay possible is limited to twelve (12) months before the date of your application. Considering the five (5) month waiting period, the potential back pay is seven (7) months behind your initial application date. SSD retroactive or back payments are paid in a lump sum minus any attorney fees if you have legal representation. Federal law does not allow for interest to be paid on back disability benefit payments.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program that provides payments to disabled individuals with severe financial need. If you submit an SSI-only disability application, you are not entitled to any back pay before the date you filed your claim. Any SSI back pay you might receive is distributed in payments, not as a lump sum like SSD.