We get many calls from folks who have been off work for a while, and are wondering if the time is right to place an application for Social Security Disability benefits. There are several program rules that should be kept in mind in making this decision.
The first thing to know about Social Security Disability is that it is a program for people who have one or more health issues that prevent the person from working for a period of at least 12 continuous months. If you have not yet been off work for that length of time, but anticipate that may be the case, you may want to go ahead and apply, since the entire process can take months and, in some cases, a year or more, before a final decision is made. On the other hand, if you are fairly confident you will be able to get back to work before 12 months has passed, then holding off makes more sense.
…benefits can go back no more than one year from the date of the application. This is a matter of concern for those who hold off too long and, as a result, lose out on benefits to which they are entitled.
To collect any benefits at all, one must satisfy the above-described 12-month duration requirement. That said, once a person has satisfied the 12-month rule, it also is helpful to know that benefits cannot begin until five full months after the date of the onset of disability. So, for example, if I am diagnosed with a cancer and, because of my treatment, I must stop working on June 7, 2013, (and I know, because of the course of proposed treatment, that I am likely to be off work for more than 12 continuous months), then I could apply right away, but benefits would not begin until December of 2013. The five full months that I must wait for benefits to begin (in this example, July through November) is called the waiting period. The month of June cannot be counted because it is not a full month. Thus, if there is some possibility I might be able to return to work before 12 months has passed, depending on how my treatment goes, then I might want to hold off initially, to see how it goes.
The other rule to keep in mind is that benefits can go back no more than one year from the date of the application. This is a matter of concern for those who hold off too long and, as a result, lose out on benefits to which they are entitled. So in the example above, I stop working due to cancer treatment on June 7, 2013. That is my onset of disability date. I think I will be able to go back to work in less than 12 continuous months, so I do not apply. Complications ensue, and I am still off work one year later, past June 7 of 2014. Maybe at that point I am feeling really exhausted and unwell from all of the treatment and/or the cancer, so I just cannot get organized to apply for benefits. By the time I apply, it is March of 2015. Benefits can go back no further than March of 2014, even though I satisfied the five month waiting period in December of 2013. Assuming my case is approved for benefits, I lose out on benefits for that month and January and February of 2014 because I waited too long to apply. To avoid this consequence, one should apply no more than 17 months after stopping work due to the disabling health problem.
Applications for Social Security Disability now can be filed online. While this eliminates the need to go in person to a Social Security office to apply, the process, before all is said and done, still can be quite daunting. For this reason, we are available to assist you with the online application. The Social Security Administration has an informative website, where you can access the online application. If you are thinking about applying for benefits, it is worth taking a look. If you have questions, feel free to give us a call. Here is the link: