If the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines you disabled and approves you for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you are eligible to receive benefits starting from the month you applied for disability.

You do not actually receive a check, though, until the first full month after the SSA makes a decision on your application. That leaves a gap, generally between three and five months, though it can be shorter or longer depending on the volume of applications the SSA is dealing with.

To compensate you for the months you waited for approval, the SSA gives you back pay. This covers the period from your application date to your approval date. If you are an SSDI recipient, you might also be eligible for retroactive benefits, which cover up to 12 months before you even filed for benefits.

If you are determined disabled, how far back Social Security will pay benefits can depend on a number of factors. For help understanding your back benefits, contact the Disability Advantage Group, at 865-566-0800. We offer free legal consultations to disability clients.

What Is the Difference Between Back Pay and Retroactive Benefits?

Both SSDI and SSI recipients are eligible for back pay, but only SSDI recipients can, in certain cases, receive retroactive benefits in addition to their back pay.

Back pay covers the period from when you applied for disability and the SSA approved your application. Retroactive benefits go all of the way back to the date you can prove you became disabled—assuming that date is at least one month before your application date.

We can review your benefit claim and determine the level of back pay you should receive, as well as whether or not you might be eligible to collect retroactive compensation.

How Much Will I Receive in Back Pay?

Your back pay award equals the number of months between your application date and your approval date, multiplied by your monthly award amount.

If you applied in January but did not get approved until July, you would be eligible for six months of back pay. If your award is $1,000 per month, you would receive $6,000.

How Do I Calculate My Retroactive Benefits?

If the SSA approved your SSDI application and you qualify for retroactive benefits, you can receive payment covering up to a full year before your application date. To receive 12 months of retroactive benefits, however, your date of disability must have occurred at least 17 months prior to your application. The reason for this is the SSA imposes a five-month waiting period on benefits from the date you become disabled.

Returning to the last example, suppose you became disabled 15 months before you applied for benefits. Since your monthly award is $1,000 and you became eligible for benefits 10 months before your application date—once the five-month waiting period has elapsed—you would receive $10,000 in retroactive benefits on top of your $6,000 back pay.

What About Interest?

The SSA does not pay interest on either back pay awards or retroactive benefits. Your payment is a straight calculation of the number of months times your monthly award.

Do I Receive My Back Pay Award All at Once?

You can receive your back pay one of two ways: in a lump sum or an installment payment over three months. SSI recipients generally can only choose the installment option, while SSDI recipients can pick whether they want their money at all once or spread over three months.

Is Back Pay Guaranteed?

The SSA makes no explicit guarantee of back pay. However, the only possible reason an applicant would not receive it is if, somehow, they received an approval for benefits immediately when they applied. Considering that never happens, you can expect to receive back pay covering at least a few months once the SSA approves your application.

How Can I Speak With a Disability Attorney?

At the Disability Advantage Group, our attorneys focus on Social Security law. Our objective is to get you approved for disability benefits and to maximize your compensation. We have helped many clients win their claims and we want to put our resources to work for you. To schedule a free consultation with an attorney, call our office today at 865-566-0800.