In almost every case, it makes sense for you to file your application for disability benefits sooner rather than later. Delays in filing your application can cost you money – sometimes thousands of dollars – and may disqualify you from collecting anything. Here’s why:
Protective Filing Date.
The minute you start the disability application process – whether by phone, in person, or online – that date becomes your protective filing date.
If you are filing for SSI, your protective filing date is the earliest date you can collect benefits, regardless of when you became medically disabled. If you delay your SSI filing, you will not get paid for any time prior to your protective filing date even if you were disabled months or years prior to the date you filed.
Example: Tom underwent back surgery on February 3, 2015 and was unable to return to work. He applied for SSI on November 5, 2015. The earliest Tom can collect SSI is November 5, 2015.
If you are filing for SSDI, you can claim past due benefits up to one year prior to your protective filing date. If you delay your filing, you cannot collect payments more than 12 months prior to your protective filing date even if you were disabled months or years prior to the date you filed.
Example: Sam suffered a severe heart attack on May 5, 2013. He did not apply for SSDI until June 17, 2015. The earliest Sam can collect SSDI is June, 2014.
Date Last Insured
SSDI operates like an insurance policy. In order to qualify for SSDI, your earnings record must show that you have worked and paid taxes for approximately 5 out of the last 10 years. When you stop working, your “insurance coverage” remains in force for about 5 years. If you delay your filing, your insurance coverage for SSDI may run out and you won’t be eligible at all for SSDI because your date last insured would have passed. Whenever possible it is helpful to know your date last insured – you can ask the Social Security claims rep or your lawyer can get this date for you.
Five Month Waiting Period
When you are approved for SSDI, you are not eligible for payment for the first five (5) full months following your onset date. There is no logic to this other than to save SSA money.
Example: Steve files for SSDI on February 3, 2018 alleging an onset date of August 7, 2017. If Steve is found disabled as of August 7, 2017, he won’t be eligible for payment until February, 2018.
August 7- 31, 2017 – partial month does not count
September, 2017 – waiting period month #1
October, 2017 – waiting period month #2
November, 207 – waiting period month #3
December, 2017 – waiting period month #4
January, 2018 – waiting period month #5
Example: Laura files for SSDI on February 3, 2018, alleging an onset date of August 7, 2016. If Laura is found disabled as of August 7, 2016, her first month of payment would be March, 2017. In this example, the 5 month waiting period ran from September, 2016 through January 2017. Since she can only collect retroactive benefits for one year prior to her application, the 5 month waiting period won’t impact her since it ran before she was eligible for benefits.
Reopening Old Applications
In some cases, we can reopen a prior application and help you collect past due benefits going back years. This can amount to tens of thousands of dollars of past due benefits. The catch is that you have to protectively file application #2 within one year from the date that application #1 was denied. If you delay filing application #2 you most likely will not be able to reopen application #1.
When It May Make Sense to Delay Filing
If you are pursuing a workers’ compensation claim and you also want to file for SSDI or SSI, your attorney may advise you to wait until your workers’ compensation case settles to avoid complications arising from something called a Medicare Set-Aside. Your workers’ compensation attorney and your Social Security disability attorney can confer to decide on an appropriate strategy.
If you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits or if you are pursuing workers’ compensation benefits, always speak with your lawyer before filing for Social Security.
Ask for Help
Most regular people find the Social Security disability system unnecessarily complicated so do not hesitate to ask for advice and guidance. We are happy to help you any way we can – just use the contact form on this page to ask your question – we’ll reply by phone or email and help clear the confusion.