Disability claimants who have been approved for Social Security disability insurance benefits (also known as SSDI, SSD, and Title II disability benefits) are subject to a five-month “waiting period” wherein the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not pay the claimant any disability benefits. This means that if the claim is approved within five months of the disability onset date, Social Security will not pay benefits until the sixth month after the onset date. If the claim is approved more than five months after the disability onset date, then the SSA will withhold the first five months of the claimant’s benefits before starting monthly payments.
Exceptions to the Waiting Period
- Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. Supplemental Security Income claimants who have been approved to receive SSI disability do not have a five-month waiting period. SSI claimants are eligible for their first payment on the first day of the month after they apply for disability. [Note: even SSI claimants are likely to receive a few months of “back pay” SSI benefit payments because it takes the SSA at least a few months to approve a claim for disability benefits.]
- Reinstatement. If you were previously approved for SSDI benefits, returned to work, stopped receiving disability benefits, and then become disabled again because of an impairment(s) that is the same as or related to the impairment(s) that allowed you to get benefits earlier, you will not be subject to the five-month waiting period for benefits – so long as you make your request for reinstatement within 5 years from the month your benefits ended. This is called Expedited Reinstatement.
- Dependent Benefits. If you are applying for benefits as the child of a disabled worker, your application is not subject to a waiting period. For more information, see our section on SSDI dependent benefits.
When the Waiting Period Starts
The five-month waiting period begins with the claimant’s established onset date (EOD) of disability. The EOD is the date that determined the claimant became disabled. Thus, the date of entitlement to SSDI benefits (or the date when the claimant starts to be owed a monthly payment) does not start until five months after the established onset date.
How the Waiting Period Relates to the Application Date
How does the date of entitlement compare to the disability application date? Answer: A claimant cannot receive more than 12 months of “retro benefits” prior to the benefit application date. In other words, the date of entitlement cannot be more than 12 months before the application date.
If the established onset date is more than 17 months before the application date, then the waiting period will have been exhausted before the date of entitlement and the claimant will receive back benefits going back to 12 months before the application date.
How a Protective Filing Date Affects the Waiting Period
A “protective filing date” is the date you first contacted Social Security and advised the SSA that you would be applying for disability benefits. A protective filing date is similar to your application date for the purposes of the 17-month time limit discussed above. As stated above with respect to the application date, the date of entitlement to benefits can be 12 months before your protective filing date. In other words, you can receive payment for disability benefits for up to 12 months before your protective date if Social Security finds you were disabled five or more months before that date.
As you can see from the above discussion, most of the time a disability claimant does not actually have to wait five months after a decision is made to get benefits because the five-month waiting period is used up while waiting for a disability decision.