When you get approved for Social Security disability benefits, you can expect to receive a check every month from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The amount you will receive is dependent upon your average lifetime earnings before you became disabled.
But often, a person’s first check from the SSA is much larger than normal. This check accounts for an individual’s past due benefits.
Benefits Multiplied Over Time
Past due benefits are the monthly benefits you should have received between the time you became eligible for disability benefits and the time you were officially approved.
To determine an estimate of your own past due benefits, you’ll need to determine two things: your monthly benefit amount and when you became eligible for benefits.
Your Monthly Benefit Amount
Your monthly benefit is not determined by how severe your disability is. Instead, depending on the type of disability you have been approved for, it is dependent upon your work credits or your household income.
For disability insurance benefits (DIB), your monthly benefit depends on your work credits. You earn work credits by working and paying Social Security taxes throughout your life. You can earn up to four work credits a year. Your monthly payments will be based upon how much you paid into the Social Security system when you were working.
For supplemental security income (SSI), your monthly benefit depends on your household income. You can earn SSI benefits without ever having worked or paid into the Social Security system. In 2017, the maximum amount an eligible individual can receive in SSI each month is $735.
When You Became Eligible
Depending on whether you were approved for DIB or SSI, you may be able to calculate a rough estimate of how much you can expect to receive each month in benefits. Now let’s look at the second part of the equation: when you became eligible for benefits.
The date you became eligible is not the date you had your hearing. It’s also not the date you became disabled (also known as your onset date). Instead, it is the beginning of the sixth month after your onset date. For example: You became disabled on May 1, 2014. You would be eligible for benefits on November 1, 2014.
Retroactive Payments and the One-Year Limit
If you applied for disability the day you became eligible for benefits, your past due benefits would cover the time between that initial application and the day you were finally approved. Let’s use the previous example again: You applied for disability benefits on November 1, 2014. After you had a hearing in front of an administrative law judge, you were finally approved for DIB 17 months later on April 1, 2016. Your past due benefits would be your monthly payment multiplied by 17.
But what if you became disabled and didn’t apply for disability right away?
Retroactive payments cover the time between the date you became eligible for disability and the date you applied for Social Security disability benefits. These payments are only eligible for people who are receiving DIB, not SSI. Because of the SSA’s one-year limit, you can receive up to one year’s worth of retroactive payments.
For example, here’s how that works in a case where you:
- Became disabled on May 1, 2014.
- Became eligible for benefits on November 1, 2014.
- Didn’t apply until December 1, 2015.
- Waited 17 months before you were finally approved on May 1, 2017.
Your past due benefits would cover the amount of time between your initial application and your approval. In this situation, that would be from December 1, 2015 to May 1, 2017: 17 months.
Your retroactive benefits would cover up to a year’s worth of benefits between your eligibility date and the date you applied for disability. In this case, you waited 13 months to apply, but you’ll only receive 12 months’ worth of payments because of the one-year limit.
That means that your first check would be the sum of:
- 17 months of past due benefits
- 12 months of retroactive benefits
- Your benefit for your first month on disability
Since your first check would be worth 30 months of benefits, it would be substantially larger than any other check you receive from the SSA for your disability.
If you choose to hire an Indiana disability attorney to help you with your case, they will likely work on contingency. That means that if you don’t get approved, you don’t have to pay your attorney for their services.
But if you do get approved, how does your attorney get paid? They only get paid a percentage of your past due benefits. At Hensley Legal Group, the attorney’s fee is 25 percent of your past due benefits.
Although most people have to wait a long time to get approved for disability, 33 percent of applicants are approved at the initial application stage. That means that attorneys often help people get approved for disability knowing full well that they’ll receive little to no payment for their services.
If you are worried about attorney’s fees, it’s also important to know that the SSA puts caps on how much money an attorney can receive from your past due benefits. Attorneys can only receive up to $6,000 in payment for their services. That means that if, for example, your past due benefits total $28,000, then 25 percent of that would be $7,000, but because of the SSA’s limits, your attorney will still only receive a $6,000 fee.
Help from an Indiana Disability Attorney
You may be able to estimate how much your first check will be now that you know about past due benefits, but you won’t see a single penny of those benefits, past or present, unless you’re approved. No matter where you are in the approval process, an Indiana Social Security disability attorney can help. Call Hensley Legal Group today or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.