Where’s My Back Pay?

Back Pay Social Security Disability

“It’s been a while since my approval, where’s my back pay?”

This is a question we hear on a daily basis from our clients. Back pay is the back benefits you are entitled to that span the time from the date of disability to the date of approval. While it may seem like that would be a simple process to get those benefits, it is in fact not. There are rules that control when benefits start, how the benefits are paid out and even offsets that can affect your back pay. The first question that you need to ask is, what type of disability did I qualify for.

There are two disability programs and the back pay works differently for each program. First is the Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) program (also known as SSDI or Title II). DIB is based on your work history and the amount you have paid into social security. It is important to note that DIB benefits can only go back 1 year from the date of filing your application.

With the DIB program it is also important to understand that the date benefits start will not be the date of disability, but actually 5 months later. The regulations for the DIB program state that a person must be disabled for 5 months before they can begin to collect benefits. So, for example, let’s say you were found disabled February 20th, you would not be eligible to receive benefits until August. It must be 5 full months.

Second, the DIB program can pay out the entire back pay in 1 lump sum payment, unlike the other disability program Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

SSI is based on household income, so the back pay is figured differently than the DIB program. First, SSI back pay can only go back to the date you filed your application. Even if you are found disabled months or years before your filing date, it will still only go back to the date of filing. The second thing that factors into the amount of SSI back pay is, as mentioned above, household income/assets. There are strict qualifying rules for SSI and you can find them at ssa.gov.

Once you have qualified for SSI and have been found disabled the back pay will be disbursed but not in 1 lump sum like the DIB program. SSI will be paid out in installments.

Additionally, it is important to understand that with both programs the back pay will not come instantly. It usually takes weeks or months to receive. Once you are approved, you will receive award letters that explain when and how much you will receive monthly. Social security will not inform you when your back pay is coming.  Average time to receive back pay is about 30 to 90 days after your first monthly payment. For additional questions on back pay, please contact us at Hoglund Law.


Lyndsey Fish-Ugorowski