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Filing a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance is a complicated process due to strict federal regulations and a lengthy approval process. Many disability applicants experience denied claims, mandatory waiting periods, and accrued SSDI back pay, which often create financial hardship for the applicant and family members.

SSDI Back Pay in Illinois

SSDI benefits are available to workers and their family members if the worker has accumulated a sufficient number of work credits based on a taxable work history. This requires payment of Social Security taxes. SSDI benefits are financed with Social Security taxes paid by employers, workers, and self-employed individuals.

To be considered disabled by the Social Security Administration (SSA), a person must have a condition that lasts at least 12 months, or a terminal condition that is expected to result in his or her death. When an applicant applies for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), there is an automatic five-month waiting period for SSDI benefits after the person first becomes disabled. Additionally, it often takes the SSA months, or even years, to process applications. This lengthy process causes a delay between the time an applicant submits an initial application and the time the applicant receives approval for benefits.

In Illinois, SSDI back pay refers to the amount of Social Security disability benefits a person is owed for the time that elapses between filing an initial SSDI application and when monthly disability benefits begin. Back pay covers delayed disability payments that were held up during the SSDI approval process.

Most SSDI applications take between 3 and 6 months to get approved, so applicants who are disabled during that waiting period are entitled to SSDI back pay. Applicants eligible for back pay usually receive payment within 60 days after disability benefits are approved by the SSA. Back payments do not accumulate interest, but the lump sum payment can be directly deposited into the applicant’s bank account.

What Are the Criteria for Receiving SSDI Back Pay in Illinois?

To qualify for SSDI benefits and back pay in Illinois, you must meet four basic criteria:

1.      You must be 66 years old or younger.

2.      You must meet the SSA work credit requirements based on the amount of taxes you have paid into Social Security. You are likely to qualify for benefits and back pay if you have worked at least five of the last 10 years.

3.      You must have a medical condition that qualifies for disability under the SSA guidelines.

4.      You must have a medical condition that lasts for at least 12 months, or be considered a terminal condition that is expected to result in death

Other criteria that impact SSDI disability benefits and back pay revolve around your ability to work, so it’s essential to know how to prove that you can’t work.

How Long Will You Be Out of Work?

When filing for disability benefits and back pay, you must be out of work or expected to be out of work for one full year (12 months). If you’re working and your gross earnings exceed $1,550 per month, benefits will be denied.

Does the Disability Impact Your Ability to Work?

A disability or medical condition must be severe enough to limit your ability to do routine work activities. This includes difficulty with basic tasks like standing, sitting, walking, climbing, reaching, and lifting.

Can You Perform Prior Work Duties?

A disability or medical condition must prevent you from performing prior work duties before the disability or medical condition occurred. If it doesn’t, benefits will be denied.

Is Your Medical Condition on the List of Impairments?

The SSA’s list of impairments names medical conditions that are legally defined as disabilities. If your medical condition is not on the list, the SSA compares it to similar medical conditions on the list to determine eligibility.

Are There Different Types of SSDI Back Pay?

When discussing Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), questions about back payments and retroactive payments come up. While they sound like the same thing, they have differences. To fully understand Social Security back pay, you must know the differences between retroactive pay and back pay.

SSDI Back Pay

When applying for SSI benefits, back pay is fairly simple. Applicants are eligible for benefits and health insurance (Medicaid) from the date they applied. SSDI applicants are eligible for back pay to cover the following:

  • Any time spent waiting for your application to be approved
  • Up to one year after becoming disabled (your “onset date”), but before you applied for benefits
  • However, when applying for SSDI benefits, applicants can never receive the following:
  • Back pay for the first five months after you become disabled
  • More than one year’s worth of back pay for the time between becoming disabled and applying for benefits. However, you can get additional back pay for the time between applying and being approved.
  • Health insurance (Medicare) for the first 24 months after you become eligible for back pay.

SSDI Retroactive Pay

SSDI retroactive pay applies to Social Security disability benefits that are owed by the SSA for any eligible time that a person was disabled before filing his/her initial SSDI application. If an applicant is owed retroactive pay, it will be capped at a maximum of 12 months and the payment will be paid to the applicant in one lump sum. In many cases, applicants wait to apply for SSDI after becoming disabled because SSA requirements state that a person must have a disability or be expected to have a disability for at least 12 months to qualify for benefits. When this requirement is met, the applicant will be entitled to retroactive payment of benefits.

How an Attorney Can Help With the SSDI Back Pay Process

If you need to file a claim for SSDI back pay, Social Security disability attorneys are valuable assets because they work with the Social Security Administration and understand the legal requirements. An experienced disability attorney can explain the SSDI filing requirements, important waiting periods, and the back pay process. If your initial SSDI claim is denied, your attorney can file an appeal on your behalf to get your claim reviewed.

Navigate the SSDI Process to Secure a Favorable Outcome

SSDI benefits are determined by the SSA based on how much a worker has paid into the program. If a worker has a sufficient work history and is eligible for SSDI benefits, an average SSDI payment is $1,500 per month. In this case, the worker is eligible for seven months of SSDI back pay.

For example, from a disability onset date (January 2023) to the time benefits were approved (January 2024), minus the five months for “standard processing time” from the SSA, the applicant’s first disability check would include $10,500 of back pay ($1,500 × 7 months).

If you qualify for disability benefits, without a struggle, an attorney may not be necessary to get back pay. However, disability payments and back payments can be complicated due to mistakes that can destroy your Social Security disability case. By working with an attorney, you are three times more likely to have a favorable outcome.

What Happens if My Back Pay Claim Is Denied?

If your SSDI back pay claim is denied by the SSA, a disability attorney can file an appeal on your behalf to have your claim reviewed. In Illinois, it can take as long as two years for the average disability application to get approved. This long wait is caused by denied claims. In some cases, applicants must go through multiple rounds of appeals with an attorney before a claim is approved.

The average time to get a hearing in Illinois is about 13.2 months. With all that time taken into account, SSDI applicants in Illinois typically wait about two years and four months from the time they apply for benefits until the time they are approved.

How Long Does It Take to Receive SSDI Back Pay in Illinois?

If you’re approved for Social Security disability, you will get all the SSDI back pay you are entitled to with your first disability check, which is usually received within 60 days after approval. There is no reason to wait to apply for disability to get more back pay. Back pay does not change the total amount of benefits you receive, it just means you get more benefits at once in a lump sum payment.