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How To Track My Disability Back Pay: Full Guide

Elderly woman working on her laptop to check her disability back pay status.

Most people know that applying for Social Security disability benefits can be a lengthy process. In fact, many applications are initially denied and get approved on appeal. It can sometimes take months, or even years, from the date of your initial application until you finally get approved for benefits. So, what happens to your disability pay during the time in which you are waiting for approval? Thankfully, you will be entitled to back pay to cover the months in which you were disabled but were waiting for your benefits to be approved. Here is everything you need to know about how Social Security back pay works and how you can track your disability back pay.


How To Track Your Disability Back Pay

There are a few different ways to track your disability back pay. Typically, your SSDI back payments are made within 60 days of your approval date. However, sometimes the process takes longer, and you might need to find a way to check on the status of your payment. Here are a few ways you can do that.

The easiest method for tracking your back pay is by using Social Security’s online services. You should visit and log in to your mySocialSecurity account. If you don’t have an account, you can log in using your Social Security number and the application confirmation number you received when you first applied for benefits. Once you log in, you will be able to see the status of your application — including information about your back pay. You can use this website to determine whether the payment amount is still processing or has already been paid.

Next, you can contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) by calling their toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213. You can call during business hours to speak with a representative, but you can also access the automated features of this line 24 hours a day. You can use the automated features to check the status of your SSDI benefits, including any lump sum payments that you are due for back pay.

If you cannot get the details you need by calling the Social Security Administration, then you can contact the disability determination officer assigned to your disability case. You can find this information by looking at your paperwork from the Social Security office. Your paperwork should include the name and phone number of the officer assigned to your case. You may contact the case officer for a more detailed status update on your back pay.

If you are still unable to get the details you need, your next step would be to visit your local Social Security office. You are likely to get the most details about your disability claim by visiting your local office. A local representative should be able to give you the latest status of your back pay, and you can ask any additional questions that you may have. Remember that Social Security offices are slowly reopening after the COVID pandemic. It is a good idea to call and schedule an appointment before heading down to your local office. Some offices are still operating by appointment only, while others have reopened for walk-in visitors.

Finally, if you had an attorney or representative assist you with your application or appeal, you should reach out to them for assistance. Many SSDI recipients hire a disability lawyer to help with their appeal and ultimately get approved for Social Security disability insurance benefits. Your lawyer can contact the Social Security Administration on your behalf to get a status update on your back pay. Most of the time, your attorney can quickly get you a status update. However, you should remember that it can be difficult to get an exact date when you will receive your back pay. Since lump sum payments for back pay are processed by a different office than regular disability benefits, an exact payment date is sometimes hard to nail down.


How Is SSDI Back Pay Determined?

Attentive healthcare specialist sitting in his office having a discussion with an elderly man.

You might be wondering how your SSDI back pay will be calculated. The calculation is straightforward, although there are a couple of rules that you should be aware of. Once you are approved for benefits, you are entitled to benefits beginning on your alleged onset date. This is usually the date you first apply for benefits. Keep in mind that it can sometimes be more than a year from your application date until the time your benefits are approved. So, this means that you might be owed several months’ worth of benefits at the time of your approval. However, here are the special rules you should know about.

First, you need to understand that there is a 5-month waiting period for SSD benefits. This means that you are not eligible to begin receiving monthly payments until five months after the onset of your medical condition that qualified you for disability. So, if your disability application date is January 1, then you would be eligible to begin receiving benefits on June 1. Most of the time, your disability onset date is the same date as your application date. In some rare cases, an administrative law judge may set your established onset date (EOD) at a time earlier than your application date if there is some reason why you waited to apply for benefits.

Using the same example as above, imagine that your application is not approved until November 15. This means that you will not begin receiving your benefits until December. So, you would be owed benefits from June through November as back pay. Once you know how many months of back pay you are owed, calculating the amount is quite simple. Simply take your monthly disability benefit amount and multiply it by the number of months you are owed. So, if you are paid $1,000 per month and are owed back pay for six months, then your payment amount will be $6,000. SSDI back pay is paid as a single lump sum into the same bank account where you receive the direct deposit for your monthly benefits.

You should also know that you can only receive a maximum of 12 months’ worth of back pay from Social Security disability. So, even if your application takes 24 months to get approved, you cannot receive more than 12 months of back pay. This often happens, as the application process for disability is quite lengthy. The calculation of the amount of back pay will be the same. Simply take your monthly disability payment amount and multiply it by 12.


Types Of Disability Back Payments

There are two different types of disability back payments for which you can qualify. The first is traditional disability back pay. These are past-due benefits that are paid from the time of your application until your application is approved, less the 5-month waiting period. Since the disability application process is usually very lengthy, most people who are approved for disability are owed some amount of back pay.

The other type of back pay that you might qualify for is retroactive pay. You may be entitled to retroactive benefits if your disability onset date is prior to the date of your disability application. This pay will be for the time from the onset of your medical condition until the time you actually apply for benefits. Retroactive pay is not as common as traditional back pay. When it comes to back pay limits, the 12-month limit applies to both traditional back pay and retroactive pay combined. This means that you can only receive 12 months of back pay, regardless of the date of your established onset date.


SSDI vs. SSI Back Pay

Those who apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits can also receive back pay. The application process for SSI benefits can also be lengthy, so back pay might be due. However, there are a few differences between SSDI and SSI back payments. Both types of benefits will allow you to qualify for back pay. No interest is due on back payments for either type of benefit. One of the biggest differences between the two is that no retroactive payments are available for SSI benefits. This means that, unlike SSDI benefits, you cannot receive SSI benefits prior to your application date. Back pay is only available from the time you submit your application up until you are approved.

Remember that there is no waiting period for SSI benefits. So, if you apply for benefits on January 15, you could be eligible for benefits on February 1. Suppose that your application is approved in June and you receive your first payment in July. This means that you would be owed back pay for the months of February, March, April, May, and June. The other big difference between SSDI and SSI back pay is that SSDI back pay is made in a lump sum while SSI back pay is paid in installments. We will discuss that more in the next section.


How Back Payments Are Made

Closeup of a mobile phone in someone's hand, logged into online banking.

Once you have determined your eligibility to receive back pay, you are likely wondering how the back payment will be made. When it comes to SSDI benefits, you will receive a lump sum for the amount of your back pay. The amount will be deposited into the same bank account that you use for the direct deposit of your regular monthly benefits.

When it comes to SSI benefits, your back payments are made in installments. The first installment that you receive will be as much as three months’ worth of benefits. If you are owed more back pay than this, then the rest will be made in additional installments that are spaced six months apart. There is a disclaimer to this rule. If you can show the Social Security Administration that you have an essential need for the money, then you can get the payments sooner. The initial installment and all remaining installments will be made as a direct deposit to the same bank account as your monthly benefits.


The Bottom Line

If you get approved for disability benefits, there is a good chance that you will be owed some back pay. This means that you can become eligible for benefits before you get approved, in which case you will be owed back pay from the date of your approval back to the date of your first eligibility. Since the disability application process usually takes so long, most people are owed some amount of back pay at the time of their approval. Tracking your back pay can be done in a few different ways, from checking online to visiting your local Social Security office. If you need assistance with disability benefits, then you should contact a disability attorney. Most of them offer a free consultation.


Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get SSDI back pay?

In most cases, you will receive your back pay within 60 days of getting approved for benefits. In some cases, you might even notice your direct deposit for back pay arrives before you receive your Social Security award letter. However, it typically takes about six weeks on average to get your back pay. The timeframe for getting SSI back pay is about the same. SSI back pay should arrive within 60 days, and most claimants report getting their back pay in about seven weeks.


Is disability back pay taxable?

There are no special tax considerations for disability back pay. The back pay is taxed just like your normal Social Security disability benefits. Whether or not your Social Security disability income payments are taxed depends on your total income for the year. Since most people receiving SSDI payments have no other income sources, they do not end up paying taxes on their disability payments. This includes both their regular monthly payments and their back pay. However, if your annual income exceeds the taxability threshold, then you will owe regular income taxes on those amounts.


Is disability back pay paid in a lump sum?

Back pay for SSDI benefits is paid as a lump sum. You will receive the entire amount at once, and there is no limit to the amount that you can receive. You can only receive up to 12 months’ worth of back pay, but there is no limit on the dollar amount. SSI back pay is not paid in a lump sum. SSI back pay is made in installments, with the first installment being equal to three months’ worth of back pay. If you are owed more than this amount, the remaining installments will be spaced six months apart.