Closeup of a person filling a form, SSAWhen an individual suffers from a mental or physical disability that is expected to last more than one year, it is vital that he or she submits an application for social security disability benefits as soon as possible. Waiting too long to file for disability can have a significant impact on the outcome of a case. Postponing the application can result in negative effects including:

  • Reduced Back Payments: The claims process can take several months, or even years to complete. Unfortunately, when a claim is approved the Social Security Administration (SSA) will only pay retroactive benefits for up to 12 months prior to the date the claim was filed. If a claimant became disabled in January of 2014, for example, but waited to file until July of 2016, his or her back pay would only be paid from July of 2015 on, and the benefits from the onset of the disability to July 2015 would simply be lost.
  • Availability of Current Medical Information: In many situations, the diagnosis of a disabling condition is made when the disability symptoms are in their early stages and a series of tests are conducted. During this period, there is often a wealth of current medical documentation available. If a claimant waits too long to file for disability, the SSA might determine that the most pertinent information is outdated. This could result in the SSA requiring that the individual undergo additional testing that could have been avoided. In many cases, this testing is performed by medical providers who are hired by the SSA and unfamiliar with the patient’s medical history.
  • Loss of Income/ Benefits During the Process: While some claims process very quickly, a large number of cases take an extensive amount of time to achieve approval. During that time, claimants are often left with no income/ reduced income, and without medical insurance to pay for the treatment that they need.
  • Loss of Work Credits: To obtain social security disability benefits, individuals must typically have a specified number of work credits. Most work credits expire within five years from the date the individual stopped working. Waiting to file a claim for social security disability can result in lost work credits that can cause a reduction in the amount of benefits payable, or can even disqualify an individual from receiving benefits altogether.