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Past Due Benefits Paid Up to One Year Prior to Application Date Only

onset date vs. application dateQuestions 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:


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. Continue reading →

Appeals Court Awards Claimant 30 Years Worth of Past Due Benefits

Frusher Social Security appealA federal circuit court of appeals has awarded a widow 30 years worth of past due benefits on her late husband’s claim.  The case involved the claim of Dr. Richard Frusher, a Rhode Island resident who applied for benefits based on mental illness in 1975.

Social Security denied his claim in 1975 and again in 1978.  Disheartened, Dr. Frusher and his family gave up.

Fast forward to 2003, Dr. Frusher was approaching age 62 and he applied again, although this time for SSI only since he had long ago run out of SSDI credits.   Noting that there was evidence in the file confirming that his mental health issues dated back to the early 1970’s, Dr. Frusher’s lawyer filed an appeal to the Appeals Council arguing that “good cause” existed for the Appeals Council to reopen his 1978 application on the grounds that Dr. Frusher’s schizophrenic condition prevented him from understanding his appeal rights, and that those rights were still available to him. Continue reading →

What Does it Mean When a Judge Wants to Change Your Onset Date

As I noted this past November, I am starting to see more instances when a judge will want to change the “onset date” for my client’s disability.  What does this mean and should you be concerned?

Your onset date (called your Alleged Onset Date or AOD by Social Security) represents that date that you allege that you became disabled.  Usually your AOD will be the day after you last worked, although in some instances I have been able to argue for an AOD that was two or three months prior to my client’s last day of work if my client had changed from full time to part time, if the job had become a “make work” situation or if my client was missing days or parts of days.

Similarly, I have tried cases in which the AOD was several months after the last day of work.  This happens when a person is laid off because his employer is cutting staff and the medical evidence shows that the employee’s disability began at some point after the layoff.

In general, however, as rule of thumb, the last day of work is a good choice for your Alleged Onset Date.

Why, then, would a judge change your onset date?  Usually, a Social Security judge will try to associate your onset date to a specific medical treatment record.  For example, if the basis of your disability is back pain and an MRI showing a herniated disc is dated September 28, the judge may choose September 28 as the onset date.  Obviously in this example, your disc was herniated on September 27 and probably on August 27 and July 27 as well, but September 28 is a date on which there is objective evidence of a medical problem consistent with your testimony. Continue reading →

Am I Getting the Right Amount of Money – Understanding Social Security’s Date Calculations

I received a question from one of my blog readers asking about date calculations.   I wish I could tell you that understanding Social Security’s date calculations and acronyms was easy but I can’ t say that.  I will try to offer some explanation about this confusing area.

i got an amended date signed by the judge but the  social ser, office only went back to 2005 when i had the hearing  and not the amended date that i was told they would go too. can you help me undersatnd this date stuff.

My reponse: Sandra, for sake of this blog post, I am going to talk mainly about SSDI benefits.  I’ll touch on SSI but I’ll make SSI date calculations the subject of a later post.

So that everyone is on the same page, when I speak about SSDI, I am talking about Title II disability – the kind of disability that you receive if you have worked and paid money into the system.  In order to qualify for SSDI, you have to be “insured” and have enough credits.  I am going to assume that Sandra has enough credits and that there is no issue regarding her eligibility for SSDI.

When you apply for SSDI, you will be asked about the “onset date” for your disability.  Since you are contending that you no longer have the capacity to work, I usually find that a good onset date is the day that you left your last full time job.   You can voluntarily change your onset date – sometimes I discover that my client chose a date that was many months after he was able to work and I amend the onset date to an earlier date.   In other cases, I find that my client used an onset date that was two or three years before she stopped working – in that case I might recommend that we amend the onset date forward as it is hard to argue that my client is disabled when she was still working full time. Continue reading →

How Does the Judge Decide if You are Approved for SSI or SSDI

I regularly get questions from readers of my blog and web site about SSI, SSDI and the differences between the two.  The biggest difference:  you will be eligible for SSDI if you have worked and paid Social Security taxes into the system.  Generally to be fully insured, you need to have worked and paid taxes for 5 out of the last 10 years.

If you have worked consistently for 10 years then stopped working, therefore, you “insurability” will follow you for approximately 5 years.

One of the pieces of information I always look for is my client’s “date last insured” for SSDI.   If you have not worked regularly or if there is a big gap between dates that you worked, your date last insured could be an issue.  In order to recover SSDI, your onset date has to be earlier than your date last insured. Continue reading →

Can Claimant With Sporadic Work History Collect on Working Spouse’s Earnings Record?

I regularly get calls from potential clients who apply for Social Security disability, only to discover that they do not have enough credits to pursue a Title II SSDI claim.  In such cases, the only other option would be to pursue a Title XVI SSI claim.  However, SSI benefits are usually lower ($674 per month for an individual in 2009) and, more importantly, SSI payments are subject to offset if the claimant has a spouse who works.

I see this a lot among self employed people, or salespeople who are paid in cash and do not have money withheld for Social Security taxes.   Here is an email I received from the wife of such a claimant:

I have worked and paid into social security since 1965.  My husband worked on and off for the past 30 years, but has not regularly paid in to social security.  Ten years ago he was diagnosed with MS and he has been unable to work at all.  I went to Social Security to ask if I could get disability payments for him and they told me that I earned too much money ($45,000 annually).  I am now about to retire at age 60 and would like to collect disability for him.  I’ve gone through web searches and there is such a mire of information – I don’t know where to begin.  Can he collect against the money I’ve paid in?  He is completely dependent on me.

Jonathan’s response: unfortunately I think that you are out of luck. Continue reading →

What is my “Date Last Insured?”

Back in January, I answered a question from a blog reader about Social Security disability credits.  That reader wondered why Social Security had advised her that she had “run out of credits.”

You earn credits based on earnings during the approximately 10 year period prior to filing for disability.  If you wait too file or if you allege disability as of a date where your credits have run out, you cannot recover disability benefits (you could recover SSI, but SSI benefits are usually lower than SSDI and SSI will be offset by household income or assets).

When you file for benefits, Social Security calculates something called your “date last insured.”  As long as the judge or adjudicator finds you disabled on or before your date last insured, you will receive disability benefits.  If you are found disabled after your date last insured, you will not qualify for SSDI benefits.

In my law practice, one of my first tasks with any new client is to determine that client’s date last insured.  I have learned the hard way that if I am successful in proving disability, but the onset date used by the judge is after the date last insured, my client won’t receive any benefits and I won’t get paid for my efforts.

My colleague Social Security lawyer Tomasz Stasiuk in Colorado, recently posted a very well written explanation of the date last insured issue.  Take a minute and read Tomasz’ post because it clearly discusses and explains the major issues related to your date last insured.

My Work History Has Not Been Consistent – Can I Still Claim SSDI Benefits?

I was diagnosed last Thursday by my neurologist with post traumatic stress syndrome resulting from three MVA’s.  I have other related injuries and have tried to do several jobs, after a long career, and cannot do it.  Is there any relief for me?

I did pay into social security from 1982 to 1989 but from 1988 to 2005 was in the school system that did not pay in.  We did pay in to medicare, etc. however. 

Am I eligible for any benefits?

Jonathan Ginsberg responds:  Jeff, you will need to find out if you are eligible for Title II SSDI.   Eligibility is based on what you have paid into the system.  You will need to show sufficient earnings credits in 20 out of the 40 calendar quarters prior to your disability onset date.  I discuss the Social Security earnings credit requirements here.

You can also call Social Security at 800-772-1213 to ask about your date of eligibility for SSDI and your date last insured for SSDI.  Be aware – sometimes the information given by the SSA operators is not up to date.

You can also request your earnings statement by completing SSA form 7004, which you can download here.

If you have enough earnings, you will then need medical support from a treating doctor or mental health professional that your condition is severe enough to prevent you from performing any type of work.

If you do not have enough credit hours, you can still apply for SSI, but in an SSI case your monthly benefit is capped and your household income and assets may offset your monthly SSI benefit.

[tags] earnings requirement for SSDI, SSI vs. SSDI [/tags]

How Do I Know if my SSDI Monthly Benefit Payment Amount is Correct?

I have found your site and have been reading your comments.  I have been on SSDI since 2002.  I was a registered nurse for 15 years- always working with no lapses.  At on point I was working two full time jobs (no sleep). I worked the two full time jobs for about a year and 1/2.  I earned a very decent living.  I saw in one of your posts that SSDI is usually about $1500 a month.  Mine started at $1200/month- now it is up to $1300/month.  Why the difference in amounts?  I would desperately like to go back to work- but it doesn’t look good.  Every penny counts now.  In this situation does a person have any recall?  Thanks.

Jonathan Ginsberg responds:  Deb, thanks for your question.  Your SSDI benefit amount is a calculation based on how much tax you paid into the Social Security system.  Your disability benefit is calculated based on something called your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA).  Your PIA calculation is an exercise in fuzzy math.   You can read more about the PIA calculations on the web site.

I wish I could refer you to a reliable resource that could double check SSA’s PIA calculations but I know of no such resource.  If any of my readers does know of such a resource, please let me know.

What I would recommend is that you request a copy of your earnings and benefit statement.  This statement, which is available to you free of charge from Social Security will show your estimate benefit payment and it will also identify your earnings and contributions to Social Security during those earnings years.  If you see that SSA has failed to credit you for certain earnings or for Social Security tax contributions, you would have the basis to ask for a review of your account and a correction to your record.

Wife’s Income Offset’s Husband’s SSI Benefit Claim

My husband had a spinal cord injury and is totally disabled but SS denied his claim because I(his wife) makes too much money.  I make $62,000 a year and we have a child in college. Does this denial make sense?  He made about $25,000 per year before the injury.  We have gone bankrupt and risk losing the house.
Ms. B

Jonathan Ginsberg responds:  Ms. B, if the denial was based on your household income, it would appear that your husband is not insured for Title II SSDI.  If you husband has an earnings record, then your income would not impact his right to collect benefits.  If he does not have enough earnings credits to qualify for SSDI, he would only be eligible for SSI.  SSI is a welfare program for indigent claimants who do not have enough credits to qualify for SSDI and an SSI claimant’s benefits would be subject to offset based on household income.

I discussed the earnings credit issue on a special page of this blog.   There are also several posts on this blog that discuss SSI and the offset rules.  If you will go to the search box and type in "ssi offset" you will see several posts that discuss SSI.

[tags] SSI offset, SSDI earnings record, making too much money for SSI [/tags]