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Social Security Disability Back Benefit Calculation

Understanding How The Social Security Disability Back Benefit Works

If you are in the process of getting paid your Social Security Disability benefits, you are probably asking yourself how does the “back benefit” or “back pay” works.

First, let me go over what a “back Benefit” is if this is the first time you are hearing this term:

Back Benefits (or back pay) is the monthly amount you are entitled to receive for your disability, multiplied by the number of months starting from your alleged onset date to the date you are awarded disability minus 5 months (the 5-month deduction will be the subject of another post).

The back benefit accounts for the months you were waiting to be awarded your claim. This calculation does not include your future monthly payments.

It’s easier to understand with an example:

Say you stopped working on January 1, 2015. Let’s call that date your Alleged Onset Date (or AOD).

You file for Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI) on December 15, 2015, and you are awarded disability benefits on January 1, 2017.

Let’s pretend you are entitled to $1000 a month (this is called your Principal Insured Amount or PIA).

If we calculate the back benefit from January 1, 2015 (your AOD) to January 17, 2017 (your award date) the total is $24,000.00 (24 months). Then we deduct 5 months (or $5,000).

The total amount of back benefit, in this case, is $19,000.00 ($24k minus $5k=$19k).

**Note that if your case is an SSI case (Supplemental Security Income), the 5-month deduction does not apply.

However, your back benefit calculation starts from the Application date and not from the AOD date.


Social Security Disability Back Benefit Calculation


Makes sense?

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If you don’t know what your PIA is, you can always call Social Security and find out (here).

To learn more about qualifying for Social Security benefits, check out my post “How do I know I qualify for Disability?” (don’t forget to check parts 2 and part 3 also).

Other Back Benefit Calculation Variations

The math you saw above is the most common calculation.

However, things change depending on when you filed or if the judge amended your AOD to reduce the number of months to be paid.

  1. When you filed:

Say your AOD is January 2013 but you only filed on January 1, 2015. Under this scenario, your back benefit calculation will start from one year BEFORE the date you filed your claim.

In this case, your calculation will go from January 1, 2014 (one year BEFORE the filing date) to the date of the award (in our example, January 2017), minus 5 months.

The total here is 36 months (1/1/14 to 1/1/17) minus 5 months or 31 months of back benefits.

This will happen even if the judge agreed that your AOD is January 2013.

Social Security simply will not pay back benefits for more than a year before the Application date. 

2. The judge amended your AOD:

In some cases, the judge or even the local office will amend your AOD to a later date. This can happen when Social Security feels like your medical records only prove your disability AFTER a certain date.

For example, you alleged that you became disabled on January 1, 2015, and filed in December 2015.

But your medical records were really sparse because you lacked insurance until August 1, 2015.

You finally get enough testing and visits from August forward. And at your hearing, the judge decides to award your case from August 1, 2015, and not from your alleged onset date of January 1, 2015.

In this scenario, your back benefits will be calculated from August 1, 2015, to the award date (in our example, January 2017) minus 5 months. The total is 17 months minus 5 months equals 12 months of back benefits.

The calculations can vary a lot from case to case. These examples above should give you some idea on how to calculate your back benefits.

To Recap:

  1. Back Benefits in SSDI cases are usually calculated from the time of the AOD to the Award date minus 5 months
  2. SSI cases are calculated from the date of the application
  3. Amended AODs can change the calculation of benefits from that date to the award date minus 5 months

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Courses by Realtactics4disabilityclaims.com

If you are starting the process of filing for disability and you want to understand complicated terms like AOD and PIA, I created a course called the “5 Day File Your Disability Claim Guide Course” where you will learn the ins and outs of filing your claim. Simply click on the image and you will be directed to the course page.


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Until next time,

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    • Tatiana says:

      If you worked under the table you will not be able to apply for SSDI. You may apply for SSI and they will be able to tell you if you will qualify since both systems have the same medical rules but different financial requirements. I hope this helps.

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