Social Security Disability Benefits: Back Pay and Retroactive Payments

Published on: August 8, 2019


In a perfect world, we’d begin receiving Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI) as soon as we apply. Of course, that’s not how it works. Your case must first be examined by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to determine eligibility and the process can be quite lengthy. If you ultimately are approved, you may then qualify for back pay and retroactive payments. However, SSDI back pay and retroactive pay are not the same thing.

Social Security Disability Benefits Back Pay 

Back pay is whatever amount of past due benefits that Social Security may owe you after your case is won. It’s important to note that there is a five-month waiting period when applying for disability, so if you’re approved during this period, you will begin receiving payments on month six and not be eligible for back pay.

For some applicants, especially those with dire needs, approvals can come fast; but for others, it can take up to a year or more. In these cases, you would be eligible for back pay five months after the date you applied for disability. So if it took exactly one year, you would get seven months back pay (12-5=7). This amount is generally paid in one lump sum through direct deposit.

Social Security Disability Retroactive Payment

Retroactive benefits are payments you receive for months that occurred before you decided to file for disability, presuming you were disabled during that time. You may think, why would someone wait to apply? It happens more often than you think. They may not want to admit they’re no longer able to work, or they may not feel like going through the hassle of applying and going through all the government red tape. Of course, now they must prove they were disabled prior to receiving benefits and unable to perform work at a substantial gainful activity (SGA).

Individuals are only eligible for retroactive payments 12 months prior to when they filed for disability. Due to the five-month waiting period, to receive a full year of retroactive payments they must actually prove they were unable to perform SGA-level employment for a total of 17 months (12+5=17).

Can I Get Back Pay and Retroactive Payments for SSI?

Back pay works for SSI (Supplemental Security Income) just as it does for SSDI. However, you are not eligible for retroactive payments under SSI, as these are considered owed to you only under SSDI, which you paid into during your working years. So, while applying for either as soon as possible is in your best interest, this applies even more so when attempting to obtain SSI.

What If My Disability Application is Denied?

Unfortunately, more than 50% of all disability applications are denied the first time. If an individual has to reapply, the process starts over and can take much longer the second time around. If approved this second time, back pay will be paid out, but this can ultimately be a couple of years after your initial application.

To better your chances of being approved for SSDI, consider having a caring disability advocate on your side. At Disability Experts of Florida, we know our way around the system, can help you prepare and present documentation, and advise you on any questions you may have. Want to learn more about applying for Social Security Disability benefits? Contact us today.

Why You Shouldn't Switch Disability Representatives in Florida

Contact Us

New Call-to-action