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How many months of back pay (retroactive benefits) will I get if I win my Social Security Disability or SSI claim?

Social Security DisabilitySocial Security runs two disability programs:  Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Simply put, you have to pay taxes in the recent past to qualify for SSDI.  The SSI program uses the same disability rules, but it is for indigent people using the same financial standards as the Medicaid program.

Social Security Disability awards can include up to 12 months of benefits before the month you apply for disability.   20 C.F.R. §404.135 (a)(4) is the federal regulation that covers this. That regulation also explains that Social Security Disability has a 5 (five) month waiting period.  From the month you became disabled, you have to wait 5 months before benefits begin.  During that 5 months, you have to be disabled too.  Going back in time before you apply, this 5 month period can be tacked on top of the 12 month retroactive award.  So, you can get the 12 full months of back benefits if you can prove you were disabled 17 months before the day you applied.  It is 17 months, because you can add the 5 month waiting period to the 12 month retroactive period to get the maximum past due benefits.   Therefore, your past due (or retroactive) award of benefits can go back up to 12 months before the month you applied (if you became disabled 17 months or more before the application) through the date your claim for Social Security Disability is approved.

SSI (Supplemental Security Income) is different.  If you have not paid sufficient taxes to qualify for Disability Insurance and you only qualify for SSI, you can only get benefits after the month you apply and going forward.  So, if you win your SSI claim, your first month of entitlement to benefits is the month after you apply.  However, there is no waiting period.  You may get “past due” SSI benefits, but they will only cover the month after you applied to the date Social Security approves your claim.


If you have been denied Social Security Disability benefits and live in the Tampa Bay area, call the disability attorneys of TuckerDisability at (727) 572-5000 or (813) 594-5000.  

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