Your disability onset date is the date the Social Security Administration (SSA) believes you became unable to work as the result of your disabling condition. When you apply for benefits, you will be asked to provide the date at which you believe your disability started. This is referred to as your alleged onset date. This date can either be approved as is or adjusted before becoming your established onset date. Social Security Disability Lawyer Alperin Law

Generally, it is easier to determine an onset date when you apply for benefits shortly after becoming disabled. If there is a significant gap between your disability onset date and the date you applied for benefits, it can be hard to find evidence to prove you are entitled to the earlier date. Providing a disability onset date with insufficient evidence is one of the most common mistakes made in new applications.

Obtaining an accurate disability onset date is important because this date affects your eligibility for back pay. You must wait five months from your disability onset date before you can start receiving back pay.

How Most Disability Onset Dates Are Determined

In most cases, your disability onset date is calculated using the following forms of evidence:

Your Personal Statement 

You must include a statement detailing when you believe your disability began on the application and on the Disability Report (Form SSA-3368-BK).

Your Work History 

The SSA district office looks at the date you stopped working via your Work Activity Report (Form SSA-821-F4 for employees or Form SSA-820-F4 for self-employed applicants).

Medical Evidence Or Other Related Evidence 

Your medical records and other evidence related to your claim can be used to determine when a progressive condition became severe enough to interfere with your ability to work.

Note that administrative law judges are not allowed to rely on their own intuition or guesswork when determining your disability onset date. There must be specific evidence to support whatever date is assigned.

Onset Dates for Disabilities of a Traumatic Origin

For disability claims resulting from trauma, such as a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury, your disability onset date is the day of the injury if you expect to be unable to work for at least 12 months, or your healthcare providers have determined that you are expected to die as a result of the traumatic incident. For example, this might be the date of the car accident or work-related accident that caused your disabling injury.

Onset Dates for Claims Related to Blindness

If you are applying for disability based on visual impairment, your onset date is the date when medical evidence or a reasonable inference shows your impairment first met the legal definition of blindness. If you were able to work despite being legally blind, however, you will need to provide a second date for when you were no longer able to continue employment.

Disability Onset Dates for Hospitalized Mental Patients

If you are a hospitalized or formerly hospitalized mental patient making a claim for benefits based on mental impairment, your onset date is determined using the following evidence:

Medical Records 

This includes a report prepared by your attending physician.

Medical History 

This includes when your symptoms first appeared and any prior treatment.

Allegations By Hospital Staff 

If a hospital staff member provides a detailed statement supporting an earlier onset date than your date of hospitalization, this can be considered with other evidence such as your work record.

Nonmedical Evidence

Examples of relevant nonmedical evidence would include statements from family, past coworkers, or friends describing abnormal behavior or reasons for stopping employment.

Are You A Veteran Who Needs Legal Help To Obtain The Disability Benefits You Deserve?

If you are a veteran and you need help receiving the benefits you deserve you should speak with an experienced veterans disability benefits lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Virginia Beach office directly at 757.490.3500 to schedule your free consultation. We have offices throughout Virginia including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk and Suffolk.


Scott Alperin
Experienced Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney Serving Virginia Beach Area Clients Since 1994.