The two most prominent questions asked regarding Social Security are:
- How much will I get paid? and
- How far back will I get paid from?
The answer to the first question is fairly simple: It depends on what you’ve paid into the system through your work history. The answer can be found on the annual Social Security Statement sent to all workers each year. If you cannot locate that Statement, you can contact your local Social Security office and they should be able to assist you.
The answer to the second question requires to additional questions be asked: (A) When did you file your application and (B) As of what date are you determined to have become disabled?
Let’s look at part B first. The date you are determined to have become disabled is also known as the date of onset or date of disability. This is date that will be determined by Social Security and listed on the favorable decision. In most cases, it is the last day you were able to perform work and coincides with the date alleged by the claimant on their initial application. Depending on the severity and progression of the condition(s) and the age of the claimant however, this date can be determined to be different than the last day the claimant performed work. An attorney can help you navigate this area.
After a date of disability is determined, there is a five month waiting period before benefits are paid. For instance, if SSA determines your disability began January 1, 2008, the first benefit check would be issued for June 2008. Therefore, payments begin the sixth month after the date of disability.
Now, keeping that in mind, let’s look at part A. The application date is important because SSA will not pay past due benefits beyond one year from the date of application. This is why claimants are encouraged to file for disability as soon as they become disabled, so as to ensure they will receive all past due benefits for which they are eligible. This limitation to one year beyond the date of application is enforced regardless of when the disability began. For instance, if a claimant is awarded benefits in January 2008, with an onset date of January 2002, but an application date of January 2005, the past due benefits only cover January 2004-January 2008.
The answer to the second question above then is that payments will begin in the sixth month after the date of onset, but not more than a year beyond the application date. There are however other factors that may affect the general payment scheme such as previous applications, prior denials, etc. so consultation with an attorney is especially important when navigating this complex area.