What’s Up With These Waiting Periods?

Often we hear from people who believe they need to wait a certain amount of time before applying for disability benefits. Nothing could be further from the truth. Time frames are both extremely important and very confusing in Social Security claims.

Anyone with a disabling condition which is expected to last for at least a year should apply for benefits immediately. The majority of claims can take several years to process, if appeals are necessary. Well over half of claims are denied at the initial application. Hearings are often necessary to obtain justice. It is advisable to apply sooner rather than later, before a claimant has exhausted all other possibilities of support and insurance benefits.

There is a requirement that a disability “last or be expected to last for at least twelve consecutive months”. This is called the “duration” rule. However, this has nothing to do with the date a person is allowed to apply for benefits. People may apply when there is a reasonable expectation that required duration will be met – for example, a heart condition that is not expected to improve, or an automobile accident that has caused a severe brain injury. Such claims may initially be denied, and then granted after some time has elapsed if the diagnosis has not changed.

Another time frame that causes confusion is the “5-month waiting period,” for payment eligibility after Social Security disability cases have been won. This Congressionally designated delay begins with the month Social Security decides the disability began, known as onset date.

If a car accident happened in January 2015, and Social Security finally grants benefits in March of 2017, the claimant’s onset date is the date of the original injury. The claimant is paid monthly, beginning with January 2015, but has a five-month waiting period subtracted from the back benefit. (There is a one-month waiting period in SSI claims.) There are still other essential time deadlines involving appeals.
Waiting periods, length of disability, appeal deadlines and long waits for decisions – this can be confusing territory to navigate. Our office will be happy to help you clarify these. Nothing happens quickly in the world of Social Security, so the rule of thumb is that early application is wise. Please feel free to call us with any questions about the time frames of SSI or Social Security disability claims.