When Will I Receive My Social Security Disability Backpay?

Whether you've been approved for SSDI or SSI benefits, you'll usually receive your retroactive pay within a couple of months.

Updated by , J.D. · University of Missouri School of Law

For most disability claimants (applicants), it can take many months or even years of waiting to finally be approved for Social Security disability. By the time many applicants finally receive their decision granting them benefits, they're often in serious debt.

That's why one of the first questions SSDI and SSI recipients often have after they've been approved is when they'll receive their past-due payments, sometimes called "back pay" or "retroactive pay." (Learn the difference between SSDI and SSI.)

The Social Security Administration (SSA) pays back payments from the date you applied for disability benefits to the date you were approved for benefits, which can be anywhere from six months to two years. And if you're approved for SSDI, you might also get back payments going back to the time you became disabled, if you didn't apply for benefits as soon as you became unable to work.

When You'll Receive Retroactive SSDI Benefits

Usually, a claimant will receive their SSDI back pay within 60 days of being approved. But it doesn't always work out that way. Sometimes the back pay comes very quickly. In fact, your back pay might be deposited into your bank account before Social Security sends out the award notice. Other times, a claimant's back pay can seemingly fall into an abyss and months will pass before it's received.

Much of this inconsistency is due to the fact that SSDI back pay isn't processed at the Social Security office where claimants apply or the office where claimants are approved for benefits. Instead, Social Security's payment processing centers handle back payments for SSDI, and these centers are often located in other states and are dealing with mountains of processing work.

Retroactive SSI Benefits Processing Time

Past-due benefits for SSI are processed at the local Social Security office. But SSI payments can get held up while Social Security requests your updated income and asset information to determine whether you're still eligible for the program. (The SSA checks your financial eligibility at the very beginning of the disability process and then again at the end, before the agency sends out your check.)

In a survey we took of our SSI recipients, the average time it took to receive a check, from the time of the decision to the first payment, was just over two months, though most individuals received their checks within seven weeks.

Updated September 20, 2023

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