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Social Security Disability & SSI: Back-due Benefits

91ddd6_60c833298e3f44bfba995f42c6bb3669.jpgOne of the most potentially confusing aspects about SSI & Social Security Disability benefits is the way each of these separate programs handles back-due benefits. The phrase 'back-due benefits' is an umbrella term that refers to any benefits that SSA pays a client because they have determined that the client has been disabled for some time, and therefore they (SSA) should have been paying the client in the past. The rules for payments of this type vary somewhat compared to the rules for 'future' benefits, ie ongoing monthly benefits that a claimantant will be paid after being awarded benefits.

Furthermore, the rules governing back-due benefits are different for SSI & SSDI.

First, let's look at the rules for SSI. With SSI, you can be paid what is called 'backpay.' Backpay is pay that you receive from the date you are awarded to the date you applied for benefits. So, if you were awarded today, SSA found you to have been disabled 12 months ago, and you applied 12 months ago, then you would receive 12 months of SSI backpay. There is no rule limiting the number of months for which a claimant can receive backpay; it is the length of the claim itself that creates that limit. In other words, since claims rarely last longer than two years, it is is unlikely that you will receive more than about two years of backpay.

If you were to receive backpay for the highest possible SSI payment over a two-year period, that would amount to nearly $18,000 in 2015. In cases such as this where the SSI back-due benefit award is large, SSA will split the amount into 3 payments over 6-month intervals. The reason for this is that it is actually possible for SSI award money to render you ineligible for SSI! After the end of the month in which you received the SSI money, that money can be counted as an asset against you, potentially putting you over the $2,000 asset limit (for an individual).

The rules for SSDI back-due benefits are different. First of all, it is possible to be awarded backpay for an SSDI claim just as it is for an SSI claim. However, there is a crucial distinction between the two programs in that there is a 5-month 'waiting period' after a claimant is found to have been disabled before the claimant can be paid SSDI benefits. So, if you were awarded today, you began your claim 12 months ago, and SSA found you to have been disabled as of 12 months ago, you would receive only 7 months of SSDI backpay.

But SSA must also calculate 'retroactive benefits' when determining the amount of back-due benefits due to a claimant who has been awarded SSDI benefits. Retroactive benefits are benefits that are paid from the date the Social Security Administration finds you to have been disabled (your onset date) to the date you applied for benefits. There is a 12-month cap to retroactive benefits. Let's take a moment to consider a situation in which both the 12-month cap and the 5-month waiting period apply. If SSA awarded you for SSDI, you applied for SSDI 10 months ago, and SSA determined your onset date to be 27 months ago, then you would receive 12 months of retroactive benefits plus 10 months of backpay for a total of 22 months of back-due benefits.

In rare cases, SSDI back-due benefits can amount to $80,000 or more. Further, all SSDI back-due benefits are paid in a single lump sum. However, it is quite common to see smaller back-due benefit awards ranging between $10,000 and $30,000.

Also, it is important to remember that there is no guarantee that you will receive any back-due benefits at all. Often, a claimant will be awarded future benefits only because there are no significant medical records that show that the individual had been disabled for for an extended period of time. Still confused? If you have a question about back-due benefits, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

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