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What Is the Elimination Period for Social Security Disability Benefits?

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI or SSD) program provides support to disabled workers who suffer from an injury or illness that leaves them unable to work enough to earn at least $1,350 per month. Millions of Americans rely on these benefit payments to help pay the expenses of daily living.

The application process for SSD benefits can be confusing and frustrating for someone who doesn’t specialize in dealing with the government bureaucracies’ rules and regulations. At London Disability, our experienced SSD and SSI advocates and lawyers know these complex systems inside and out. We want you to understand your right to benefits and how those benefits work.

The SSDI Elimination Period is a 5-Month Waiting Period

The elimination period for any insurance policy is nothing more than a waiting period that must pass before the claimant begins to have benefits begin.

Elimination periods are not “waiting periods” in the sense that you are merely waiting for your payment to arrive or to be processed. Instead, the elimination period is a series of months during which you as a claimant are not earning any benefits and for which no payments will be made. The end of the elimination period marks the time when your entitlement to benefit payments begins. The first SSD benefit payment will cover the first full month following the end of the five-month waiting period.

NOTE: There is no elimination period for any disabled SSD claimant suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) if their SSD benefits were approved on or after July 23, 2020.

Only professional disability advocates and qualified disability lawyers can navigate the maze of federal regulations relating to SSD and SSI disability benefits. You deserve to know your SSD disability rights.

Reach out to us at London Disability for help with any issue you are facing with your SSD or SSI claim.

When Does the 5-Month Elimination Period Start to Run?

It is important to understand that the 5-month SSD elimination or waiting period is not started on the date you applied for benefit payments. Many disabled SSD claimants actually meet all the conditions to qualify for disability benefits long before they file an application to receive SSD payments.

For example, a person who had to stop working on December 31 because they became too ill from a clearly diagnosed disease could be at home for many months without applying for SSD benefits. Then, in October, ten months after their disability began, they finally file an application for SSD payments. The 5-month elimination period would be calculated from the date they became eligible for SSD benefits, in January. In this example, the claimant’s 5-month elimination period would include January, February, March, April, and May. Even though they did not apply for benefits until October, their benefit payments would cover each month they qualified beginning in June, the sixth month after the disability began.

How Many Months Can Your Elimination Period Run Retroactively?

As we explained in the previous section, your elimination period can not only begin long before you file your application, it can also be completed before you file an SSD application. If your claim is approved, you will receive benefit payments retroactive to the sixth month following your eligibility for benefits, even if those payments precede your formal application date.

The key date is the “Disability Onset Date.”

What Is the Disability Onset Date?

The “Disability Onset Date” is the date determined to be the day your disability qualified for SSD benefits according to the criteria established by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The SSA defines a qualified disability as,

A medically determinable physical or mental impairment that lasts, or is expected to last, for 12 months and prevents the person from performing substantial gainful activities.

In 2022, “substantial gainful activities” refers to the person’s ability to earn $1,350 per month, or if the person is blind, up to $2,260 per month. Whenever that description is determined to have applied in the claimant’s case is their “Disability Onset Date.”

How Far Back Can My Elimination Period Begin?

While an elimination period begins to be counted from the “Disability Onset Date,” even if that date precedes the day the SSD application was filed, there is a limit to how far back the SSA will go to recognize a retroactive elimination date.

The Social Security Disability program’s rules forbid any claimant from receiving benefits for more than 12 months before they applied for benefits. Therefore, if your benefits can start to accrue as long as 12 months before your filing date, the earliest date your elimination period can begin is 17 months before you apply. That’s five months before the 12-months preceding the date the SSD benefits claim was formally filed.

Waiting for SSD Claim Decision is Different from the SSD Elimination (Waiting) Period

Unfortunately, many disabled workers who file applications for Social Security Disability benefit payments wait up to six, nine, or even 18 months before they finally learn if their claim was denied or approved. These long months of waiting may run at the same time as your elimination period, but they are two distinct periods. Remember, the elimination period will start the month your condition qualified for SSD benefits, not when you applied.

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