Questions related to onset dates, application dates and the date of first payment continue to be one of the more confusing elements of Social Security disability. A recent question from a blog reader incorporates all of these issues so I thought it might be helpful to use this question as the basis of a blog post:
I STOPPED WORKING IN 2009 I KNOW THIS WILL BE MY ONSET DATE, MY QUESTION IS MY ONSET DATE OF 2009, HOW WILL THIS AFFECT ME WHEN I APPLY FOR SSI BENEFITS SOON, SINCE I DON’T HAVE AN EARLIER ONSET DATE. WILL SOCIAL SECURITY BACK PAY ME FOR 2009 IF I WIN MY DECISION.
Let’s first discuss the question of what is Robert’s onset date. Generally, most claimants choose as their onset date the date that they last worked, and that is a reasonable choice. However, your onset date should be the date that you became unable to work. If, for example, Robert was laid off in May, 2009, and he suffered a major heart attack in October, 2009, the October date would be more appropriate. In theory, you can choose an onset date prior to your last day of work, but doing so is an uphill battle and judges are reluctant to approve a claimant for disability for a time period when he was working full or close to full time.
Generally I advise my clients to choose the earliest possible onset date when their medical condition prevented full time work. Your disability onset should be a date prior to the date that your SSDI insurance runs out.
Let’s assume that Robert stopped working in October, 2009 and that his medical records and medication condition were at a severe and disabling level at that time. Will Robert get paid past due benefits starting in October, 2009.
If Robert has not filed for benefits yet (I am writing this in June, 2012), the answer is no. In an SSDI case, you can only get paid for one year prior to the date of your application. In an SSI case, you cannot go back at all – the date of your SSI application is the earliest you can get paid.
Further, in an SSDI case, you do not get paid for the first 5 full months of your disability – this is called the five month waiting period. Click on this link from my website to learn more about the 5 month waiting period.
So, if Robert files for SSDI in June, 2012, alleging an onset date in October, 2009, the earliest he can get paid is June, 2011, which is one year prior to the date of his application. If the judge finds that his disability began in October, 2009, the five month waiting period will include November, December, January, February and March, 2010.
If Robert is eligible only for SSI, then he can only get paid as of June, 2012, even if he is found disabled back to October, 2009.
You can modify your alleged onset date prior to your hearing but judges tend to be more receptive to moving the onset date forward rather than backwards.
If you are not sure about the date you should use as your onset date, call an experienced disability lawyer for advice.