Yes, a successful applicant for disability benefits may receive payments for time before the date the benefits are awarded. “Back payments” refers to payments for the period between the initial application and the award, and “retroactive payments” refers to payments for the period between when the applicant became disabled and the initial application.
In the case of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), an applicant may only receive back payments from the date of the application onward. Retroactive payments are not available for SSI.
In the case of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), an applicant may receive back payments from the date of the application onward, and may also be able to receive retroactive payments from the onset date of the disability onward. However, either amount may be affected by the five-month waiting period that applies to SSDI claims. If Social Security accepts an applicant’s alleged onset date and it becomes the established onset date, then back payments and/or retroactive payments will apply beginning five months after the onset date. In addition to this limitation, retroactive benefits will generally not be awarded for more than 12 months before the application date.
In the case of someone receiving SSDI only, the back payments and any retroactive payments may be paid in a lump sum. In the case of someone receiving SSI, or both SSDI and SSI, the back payments may be paid in installments six months apart.
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