You do not get paid for the five-month waiting period for SSDI. But even after accounting for this period, many applicants are eligible for significant back pay and retroactive pay when they start receiving benefits.
If you apply and get approved for the other disability program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), there is no five-month waiting period. In this case, you are eligible to start collecting benefits the month after your disability onset date.
How the Five-Month Waiting Period for SSDI Works
SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) has a mandatory five-month waiting period on all claims. This period starts on your established onset date—the date you became disabled. It ends exactly five months after that date. You are eligible to begin collecting benefits the month after that. In reality, you must wait until the sixth month after you become disabled to start collecting benefits.
Example: You receive a diagnosis of a disabling condition on February 15. The doctor tells you that you can no longer work, so you immediately file a Social Security disability claim.
No matter when your claim gets approved, whether it is the very next month (unlikely) or many months after that (more likely), you cannot begin collecting benefits until August. That is because July 15 is the end of your five-month waiting period, and you start getting benefits the next month.
How the Five-Month Waiting Period Affects Your SSDI Back Pay
When you file a claim for Social Security disability, you should not expect to receive an immediate answer. The approval process is slow, and the queue is continuously backlogged, which means most applicants spend many months waiting for an answer.
One thing that makes the long wait easier is knowing that when you finally get approved, you can receive a lump sum back payment for every month you waited beyond the five-month waiting period.
Example of SSDI Back Pay With Five-Month Waiting Period
Consider the previous example again. You become disabled on February 15 and apply for Social Security disability right away. We have already established that, in this scenario, August is the first month in which you can collect benefits.
Suppose the review queue is extremely backed up, and you do not receive your approval until the following February. Thus, your lump sum back pay would cover August through February. You would receive a lump sum and then your regular monthly compensation starting in March.
How the Five-Month Waiting Period Affects Your Retroactive Benefits
Many applicants confuse retroactive pay and back pay or do not realize they are two different things. Back pay covers the period between your application date and your approval date. Retroactive pay, on the other hand, covers the period between your eligibility date and your application date.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) will pay you up to 12 months of retroactive benefits.
Example of SSDI Retroactive Pay With Five-Month Waiting Period
Suppose you receive a diagnosis on February 15, making your eligibility date July 15. However, you do not apply for benefits until three months later, on October 15. You get approved six months after that, in April.
In this scenario, your back pay would cover the six-month period from October to April. Your retroactive pay would cover July through October, the period between your eligibility date and when you applied.
SSI vs. SSDI
SSI has the same back pay rules as SSDI (except that there is no waiting period): you can receive it for the months you waited between your eligibility date and your approval date.
Retroactive pay is not available with SSI. If several months pass between your date of disability and the date you apply for benefits, you lose out on those months. So, if you think you qualify for SSI, you must get your application in as quickly as possible. A Social Security disability lawyer can help. Call us to discuss your case: 865-566-0800.
Call 865-566-0800 Today for a Free Case Evaluation With a Member of Our Team
The Social Security disability lawyers at the Disability Advantage Group have the experience to help you with any Social Security issues you are facing. We offer a free consultation and case evaluation. To speak with a member of our team, please call us at 865-566-0800.