Can I Receive Social Security Backpay?

In most cases, you can receive Social Security back pay. How and when that payment occurs depends on a number of specific circumstances and how many other disability benefits programs you’ve been approved for.

If you’ve spent any time at all applying for Social Security benefits (whether SSI or SSDI), you’re likely aware of the complexities and months/years-long process to work towards approval. If you’ve found yourself in a lengthy waiting process with the SSA, it’s possible that “backpay” benefits are owed to you and the SSA has a method to determine how much that amount is gauged as the time between your entitlement date and official approval.

SSDI and Backpay

There’s a mandatory full five-month waiting period from the date when you become disabled to the time when your benefits start. If you are approved for SSDI only, you’ll receive a lump-sum payment for the total back payment amount.

With this approval, your back pay is paid in three equal installments over a one-year period. There are exceptions if you need money for outstanding debts relating to food, shelter, or medical treatment, or you have current and/or expected expenses in the near future pertaining to medical treatment or the purchase of a place to live. The SSA has specific protocols in place to advance recipients’ money faster if their standard of living or care is in immediate jeopardy.

When Do SSDI Payments Begin?

If you are approved, Social Security will use your “alleged onset date,” which will become your “established onset date,” unless there is a valid reason for a different date. The established onset date is essential as this determines when your benefits begin. For SSDI, retroactive benefits cannot be paid for more than 12 months before your application regardless of your “established onset date.” If you disagree with the SSA’s ruling on your alleged onset date, this is something you can appeal and would require the assistance of a knowledgeable Social Security disability attorney.

SSI begins the month following the date of your application. The back pay will typically arrive in three separate installments with the first two payments equalling three times the monthly SSI benefit. If you meet any of the aforementioned exceptions for outstanding debts and current and/or expected expenses can get increased payment. You should inform the SSA about these circumstances.

What About Appeals and Hearings?

If your claim is initially denied, you do have the right to a hearing as part of the appeal process. If your application is denied, you’re looking at potentially 18 months to receive any sort of payment due to the time the appeals process takes. With concurrent claims for SSI and SSDI, you’ll generally receive the monthly payment, which is the most, and not both monthly benefits.


If an issue arises with establishing your specific disability onset date and if there’s any challenge from the SSA, it’s wise to consult a qualified Social Security claims attorney to see if there are additional options for you to challenge their reasoning. Call the team at Schott Law today at (509) 328-5789 to learn why Washington residents trust the firm with their Social Security claims needs.