If you are approved for Social Security disability insurance (SSD or SSI) you'll receive an ongoing monthly benefit, back payments, and Medicare (however, there is usually a wait for Medicare -- see below). (If you have been approved for Supplemental Security Income, see our article on SSI benefits.)
The benefit amount for Social Security disability insurance is determined by a person's work history and the amount they have contributed though payroll taxes to the Social Security system. Learn more about how much SSDI pays.
SSDI claimants almost always receive a certain amount in past due benefits, or "backpay," which is payable in a lump-sum payment. You can receive back pay from the time you filed your application, plus as much as 12 months retroactive to this date. Whether you'll get a full year of backpay depends on when you became disabled. Your disability onset date (when your disability is decided to have begun) drives your date of entitlement to benefits (which is five months after your onset date, due to a five-month waiting period for SSDI). So if your onset date is 17 months ago or more, you'll receive a full year's backpay. In any case, backpay can amount to thousands of dollars simply because disability cases take so long to be decided.
Learn more about backpay in Social Security disability cases.
You will receive Medicare benefits two years after the time you are deemed eligible for Social Security disability insurance benefits. This does not mean that Medicare benefits become available two years after you are approved for SSDI or two years after the payments have started. Instead, you'll receive Medicare benefits two years after your eligibility for benefits has been established (in other words, two years after your date of entitlement). Remember, your date of entitlement is your disability onset date plus five months, on account of the SSDI waiting period.
For example, if a claimant is awarded disability benefits and is given an established onset date (when the disability is judged to have begun, based on a review of the medical evidence) three years prior to the awarding of benefits, then the two-year Medicare clock starts from the established onset date plus the five-month waiting period that applies to all Social Security disability cases.
In many cases, since the SSA takes so long to decide cases, you'll be approved for Medicare at the same time you are approved for SSDI benefits. In other words, you will have "served" the required two-year wait for Medicare benefits by the time you receive your first Social Security disability check. (See our article on the Medicare waiting period for more information.)
Your spouse or minor or disabled children may also be eligible to receive "auxiliary" SSDI benefits. Learn more about SSDI benefits for dependents.
For more information on government benefits, read our article on the help you can receive when you are applying for disability.