September 1, 2014

How Does the Five Month Waiting Period Work for SSDI Claims?

My mother has a disablity claim in Georgia. She was denied last year 2005 and found a lawyer to help her with her case. I was just told that now they only go back 7 months from the time you start to receive your benefits. From my understanding you get your benefits back from when you originally made your claim. Could you explain this to me.Thanking you in advance Gabrielle J

Jonathan Ginsberg responds:  Gabrielle, what you are asking about is the “five month waiting period” in Title II Disability claims.  Here is how it works:

First, you need to understand several terms that I am going to use:

Date of Application – the date you actually file your application

Alleged Onset Date – the date you contend that you became disabled

Second, understand that in Title II disability cases, you can recover past due benefits for up to 12 months prior to your Date of Application

Example 1: Joe files an application for Title II benefits on March 15, 2006, alleging an Onset date of August 17, 2003.  If the judge finds him disabled as of August 17, 2003, he would be eligible for past due benefits as of March 15, 2005.

Now, let’s see how the five month waiting period works.

Example 2: Tom files an application for Title II benefits on March 15, 2006, alleging an Onset date of September 3, 2005.  If the judge finds him disabled as of September 3, 2005, he would be eligible for benefits on March 1, 2006.  Why?  Because the the five month waiting period says that Joe does not get paid for the first five full months of his disability.  Here, September, 2005 is a partial month and does not count.  The first five full months are October, November, December, January and February.

Let’s return for a second to Example 1.  What happened to the five month waiting period?  In Example 1, the five month waiting period began on August 17, 2003 and it covered September, October, November, December 2003 and January, 2004.  Remember, however that in Example 1, Joe can only get paid for the year prior to his application.  His five month waiting period ran in total prior to his eligibility for actual payment.

I try to keep the five month waiting period in mind when I advise my clients regarding their Alleged Onset dates.  Sometimes, a judge will want to amend the onset date forward because the evidence may not support the Alleged Onset Date set out in my client’s application.  I can generally live with amending an onset date to a date 18 months prior to the date of application. 18 months preserves my client’s 12 months of past due benefits and it accounts for five full months and one partial month of the “five month waiting period.”

By the way, SSA has a five month waiting period because Congress felt that many/most workers had either short term disability or accumulated vacation to cover their expenses during the first five months.  The five month waiting period is basically a cost saving measure to save SSA money.

SSI claims are different in that there is no five month waiting period, but there is also no 12 month lookback.  Your eligibility for SSI benefits starts as of the date of your application.

Finally, it is possible to “re-open” an old application to push back your Application Date – reopening will be the subject of another post in this blog.

[tags] five month waiting period, alleged onset date, Title II, Social Security disability, filing an application for Social Security disability, SSDI [/tags]

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Jonathan Ginsberg represents Social Security disability claimants in Georgia. In practice for over 23 years, Jonathan publishes a widely known disability blog, a podcast and several disability web sites. In 2004, Jonathan published a "how to" book about Social Security disability called the Disability Answer Guide. Jonathan lives with his wife and 2 children in Atlanta.