The process of applying for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits can be lengthy. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does allow recipients to receive back pay when their application is approved. Back pay is sometimes referred to as past-due benefits. Social Security disability back pay Alperin Law

Factors Affecting Back Pay

There are three factors that affect the amount of back pay you receive:

The date of your application.

SSD benefits can potentially be received back to the year prior to the application date. This means you will receive a maximum of 12 months of back pay benefits.

Your disability onset date.

This date is determined by the claims examiner or an administrative law judge. It is not necessarily the date you stopped working due to your medical condition.

The initial waiting period.

You must wait five months after the onset of your disability to begin receiving back pay. If your claim is approved within five months after the onset of your disability, you will not receive any back pay due to this waiting period. (People with conditions that qualify for Compassionate Allowances often do not receive back pay due to this program’s expedited approval process.)

Your disability onset date has the most influence on your eligibility for back pay, which is why it’s vital that you submit evidence to support the earliest possible onset date. Working with an attorney who is experienced in SSD claims is the best way to accomplish this. Your attorney will know how to document your condition in a way that meets the program’s definition of disability.

How Payments Are Processed

Back pay is received as a lump sum, while future benefits are paid monthly. Since 2011, the SSA has required that all disability recipients have a bank account to receive payments via direct deposit.

When you are approved for benefits, you’ll receive an award letter that lists:

  • The amount of your monthly deposit
  • What day of the month you will be paid
  • The back pay you will receive
  • When your back pay will arrive

Although it’s understandable to want your back as quickly as possible, note that you’ll still need to be patient even after your benefits have been approved. Some people receive payment within weeks, while others must wait several months. However, the wait is not nearly as long as the initial approval process.

Back Pay and SSI Benefits

If you qualify for both SSD and Supplementary Security Income (SSI) benefits, your back pay for SSD will be considered as income for SSI purposes. When your back pay is received, your SSI benefits will automatically be reduced to take into consideration this additional income. This is done in accordance with the SSA’s windfall offset provisions.

Back Pay and Your Attorney Fees

Disability attorneys accept cases on a contingency fee basis, which means there is no upfront cost for assistance with your SSD application. The attorney will require a percentage of your back pay as the fee for service.

The SSA sets strict limits on attorney fees for individuals receiving disability benefits. Fees are capped at 25% of your back pay, with a maximum of $6,000. If an attorney wishes to charge more than this, he or she must get special approval from the SSA—which is seldom permitted.

The SSA will pay your attorney directly from your back pay. All applicable legal fees will be deducted before you receive the lump sum payment.

Back Pay for Heirs

The nature of the SSD approval process means that some applicants who are very ill may pass away before their benefits are approved. When this happens, the applicant’s heirs may have a claim to the back pay. A surviving spouse will receive benefits first. 


Have You Or A Loved One Been Denied Social Security Disability Benefits?

If you or a loved on has been denied Social Security Disability Benefits you need to speak with an experienced SSD attorney as soon as possible. Please 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.