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SSI Back Pay & Disability Guide

Social Security issues back pay (sometimes called "Retro benefits" or "Past due benefits") to claimants after they are approved for ongoing benefits. The amounts vary according to the type of benefits, the date the disability began, and when the application was filed.

In the case of SSI, the back pay can only go back to the Date of Filing, or the date you submitted your Initial Application. This means that a claimant who has been disabled and may have qualified for years, but waited to apply for SSI benefits, could only receive past due benefits as of the date he or she filed the initial application.

In the case of Disability (DIB), or Title II benefits, the back pay will have a five-month waiting period from the Onset Date. For example, if a claimant were found to be disabled as of January 1, she would not be eligible for disability back pay until May 1. The back pay would then extend from May 1 to the approval date. Another important restriction regarding Disability back pay is that it can only extend up to 12 months before the Date of Filing. For example, a claimant who has been disabled for years, but perhaps waited until recently to file a claim, could only receive past due benefits for the year before he or she filed the initial application.

If a claimant has been approved for both SSI and Disability, the amounts will offset. This means that he or she will receive two Award Notices—one from Disability, and one from SSI. The amounts quoted on these notices reflect their own calculations and not the actual total amount that will be awarded. Social Security does not "double pay" benefits. For example, if SSI awards $500 and Disability awards $1000, the total amount sent will NOT be $1500. The total amount will be $1000 because the amounts offset. There may also be an offset if the claimant is receiving Workers Compensation benefits. Your disability representative can explain any offsets that may apply in your specific situation.

It is also important to note that back pay checks are processed separately. In many cases, claimants receive their first monthly check (or even a few months’ worth) before the back pay check is received. This is because the back pay check often takes longer to process.

In the case of SSI, the back pay is sent in three installments. These installments are mailed six months apart, meaning that it takes about a year to receive the entire back pay amount. In the case of disability, it can come all at once but may take a little longer (2-3 months after the first monthly check is received) if the claimant has been approved for both disability and SSI.

If you have specific questions about your back pay amounts, contact Social Security or ask your legal representative.

Author – Brad Myler