Do You Know About Benefits Back Pay?


Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) back pay is the money that an individual is entitled to receive from the SSA while they were waiting to be approved for disability benefits. The amount of SSDI back pay depends on how long it took for the individual’s claim to be approved and their circumstances. SSDI back pay is only available for people with a qualifying disability who are able to provide supporting documents. Understanding SSDI back pay can help individuals make sure they are getting all of the benefits they are entitled to. Will individuals receive their money in a lump sum payment? Let’s find out!

Let’s Talk About SSDI Back Pay

Some people are unable to work due to a disability, so they seek help. In this case, the Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) is able to offer benefits to people with disabilities. The SSA refers to the actual date that a person started dealing with their disability as their “onset date.” For people to be able to receive SSDI benefits, they must have a qualifying disability and meet other requirements. Additionally, not everyone will be approved to receive benefits, and it’s possible for people with disabilities to still be rejected. Luckily, applicants are always able to file an appeal if they believe they qualify, and the process will look something like this:

  1. The person will file an appeal and hopefully get granted a hearing before an administrative law judge.
  2. The person offers solid documents and/or proof in the hearing.
  3. If the judge grants that person’s request, it will be deemed that their disability started since the person’s “onset date,” not the date they were granted approval.

SSDI back pay is calculated based on the onset date, which is the date that the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines that a person’s disability began. However, a five-month waiting period is required by law for SSDI benefits. So, if a person’s onset date was in January and 15 months later their monthly benefit was determined to be $1,000, they will be entitled to 10 months’ worth of payments, which is $10,000. In other words, because of that five-month waiting period, the benefits will start from the sixth month after the onset date. The AARP has provided a detailed example that may help people better understand the process.

The SSA’s Policy on Back Pay

Some people choose to hire a lawyer to defend them throughout the appeal process. In this case, the SSA must initially approve the fee arrangement with the person’s legal representation. Additionally, the SSA would deduct the legal representation cost from that person’s back pay. The good news, however, is that the fee is limited to the lower amount, being either $7,200 or a maximum of 25% of the back pay. Furthermore, the way that the SSA would determine a person’s SSDI benefit and how much they would receive depends on their income history.

This brings us to a question that most people want to know: When do people receive their back pay, will they get the full amount at once or in installments? Let’s start with when, and that would be within 60 days of the appeal being granted. The SSA typically pays the past-due SSDI benefits in one lump sum. So, even if a person has waited for a while to receive their back pay, they will eventually get the benefits they deserve!

Back Pay is Not Limited to SSDI

Many people are able to get their back pay from the SSDI program. However, SSDI is not the only place where back pay can be claimed. People are able to obtain back pay from Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI and SSDI are both state-run aid programs, but their back pay policies differ slightly. For example:

  • SSI has no waiting period, as opposed to SSDI’s five-month waiting period.
  • The calculation for back pay for SSI is not the same as SSDI.
  • The beginning of the payment for SSI back pay is based on the date of someone’s application rather than their onset date.

As of 2024, SSI’s maximum monthly benefit is $943. If someone’s total back pay exceeds the maximum monthly benefit, the recipient won’t receive it all at once. In this case, the payment would be distributed across three equal payments spaced six months apart. If a person wants to take part in the SSI, they have to meet the qualifying requirements.

The Maximum SSDI or SSI Back Pay Someone Can Receive

Before we talk about how much money people are able to get from SSDI and SSI, we must highlight the fact that some Social Security benefits are subject to taxation. That’s only if an individual’s total income oversteps a limit; at this point, a part of their back pay can be taxed. Nevertheless, thanks to a method referred to as a lump-sum election, this is less likely to happen. Essentially, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) came up with this method because it wants to help people lessen the likelihood of exceeding that limit. Therefore, the IRS permits people to recalculate their back pay from the prior year so that it will be included in their income for that year’s tax purposes.

Now that we’ve gotten this out of the way, let’s get to the maximum amount a person will get from both SSDI and SSI. Both programs come with many advantages, and the most significant one is that neither has a maximum for back pay!


Filing a disability claim can take a while. In fact, if someone’s application is rejected but they file an appeal, the procedure can be very time-consuming. However, it’s all worth it because the SSA will ensure that people receive the benefits to which they are entitled, known as back pay. This is why it’s wise that people do their research about the programs and seek professional help. The best part is that those looking for assistance have plenty of options, as long as they qualify for them!