How Does Social Security Disability Decide When My Disability Starts?

If you are approved for either Social Security disability or SSI disability benefits, how far back you actually receive your benefits will depend at least three factors.

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I've been decreasing the hours I've worked over the last year as I am able to do less and less due to my diabetic neuropathy and vision loss. I'm now working just ten hours a month and have applied for disability, but my disability has affected my income for months. How does Social Security disability decide when my disability started?


When your disability starts is called your onset date, and the date that the Social Security Administration (SSA) decides that you first became disabled is called your "established onset date" (EOD).

How the SSA Decides Your Onset Date. On your application for disability benefits, you are asked when your disability began. The date you enter is your AOD, or "alleged" onset date. The SSA may accept this date as the date your disability began, or it might give you a later onset date. Once the SSA decides the real date that it thinks you became disabled on, it sets your established onset date (EOD). The SSA bases your EOD on your AOD, when you stopped working at the substantially gainful level, your doctor's opinion of when your disability began, and your medical records.

Medical vs. Financial Eligibility. The onset dates we were discussing above really refer to medical onset dates. You also have to qualify financially for SSI or SSDI, and the dates you qualify may be different than your medical onset date.

When Do Your Disability Payments Start? If you are approved for SSI disability benefits, your monthly benefits will start right away. If you are approved for Social Security disability, you have a five-month waiting period from your established onset date.

Either way, you will probably be approved long after the onset of your disability, so you will be owed some monthly back payments from while you were waiting for a decision. You can potentially be paid monthly benefits for each month you were disabled since your date of disability (your EOD). But how far back you will actually receive your benefits depends on when you applied for disability benefits and whether you were approved for SSDI or SSI.

Learn more about how your EOD, along with your application date, affects your disability backpay benefits.

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