If you are approved for Social Security or SSI disability, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will likely owe you hundreds or thousands of dollars in backpay, due to the time it takes the SSA to process disability claims. When you receive the payments depends on whether you've been approved for Social Security disability or SSI.
You will receive the backpay, and possibly retroactive benefits (payments from your disability onset date to your application date), as one lump-sum payment if you were approved for Social Security disability (SSDI).
If you were approved for both SSI and SSDI, the section below applies to you.
If you were approved for SSI disability benefits, you will receive your backpay in either a lump-sum amount or, if the amount of backpay owed to you is large, smaller installment payments. If the backpay owed to you is more than three times the maximum monthly SSI benefit amount (before any deductions are made for income or support), you will be paid in partial installment payments. In 2021, the maximum federal monthly benefit amount was $794, but your amount may be different if your state pays an SSI supplement.
The backpay installments will be made in three payments, at six month intervals. The first two payments can't be more than three times your maximum monthly benefit. The remainder of backpay will be paid in the third installment, regardless of the amount.
There are some exceptions to the rule limiting the amount of the first two payments. The first and second payments can be increased if you need funds to purchase a home, pay for necessary medical needs, or pay off debts related to necessities (housing, food, or clothing). Medical necessities can include a car (if it's necessary to get to doctors' appointments or medical treatment), a mobile phone (if it's needed to contact medical offices), or a computer (if used for Social Security's website or online services). Housing debts can include past-due rent, mortgage payments, property insurance, taxes, and utilities (gas, electric, water, sewer, and garbage).
If you are not expected to live more than twelve months, or if you become ineligible for SSI after approval, you can receive your backpay in one lump sum.
If you think you may be eligible for larger first and second installment payments, or one lump sum, talk to a field representative at the SSA.
Updated February 9, 2021