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When should I file my Social Security Disability application?

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Find out the best time to file a Social Security Disability application and how to protect your filing date to avoid losing back pay benefits.


Watch the Video: “When should I file my Social Security Disability application?”

File Your Social Security Application Early

You can file your Social Security Disability application as soon as it appears that you will be disabled for twelve months or that you are not expected to survive for twelve months. Except for a few expedited claims, most disability claims take from three to five months to process, so the sooner you get started on your claim, the sooner you will have a determination. You do not have to wait for other benefits such as workers compensation or sick pay to run out. For more information on this subject, please see our articles “Can I Apply for Social Security Disability While I Am Still Getting Sick Leave or Long-term Disability from My Employer?” and “If I Am Getting Workers Comp, Do I have to Wait Until It Ends Before Applying for Disability Benefits from Social Security?”

Protect Your Filing Date and Your Benefits

If you have already been disabled for seventeen months or more, you need to start your application now—before the end of the month—in order not to lose potential back pay. You can establish an application filing date by calling Social Security’s national toll-free number (800) 772-1213 and telling them that you want to file a disability application. You do not have to complete the application that day. Alternatively, you can protect your disability application filing date and your potential back pay by starting your disability application online at www.socialsecurity.gov and saving it online to finish later. The date that you first contact Social Security about filing a claim will be your disability application date. Then you can take time—up to six months—to gather information for your application and, if desired, appoint an attorney representative. For information on how to file your disability claim, see our article “How Do I File an Application for Social Security Disability Benefits?”

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  1. Cheryl says:

    Is it ok to get a protective filing date for disability, in this situation? I’m currently not working, collecting texas unemployment and trying to sell my house to have money to live on before I file for disability. Then I will finish the disability application. I would like to get a protective date soon, if it is ok. My doctor has been asking me why I haven’t filed for disability yet. I need a 2nd opinion.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Cheryl,

      Apologies for the delayed response. Our website has had a software problem, which is now resolved.

      You can start a disability application at any point you believe that you are disabled. That protects your filing date and you have six months to finish your application. Note that it usually takes two to five months to get a disability decision so completing the application as soon as possible would be to your advantage, especially if your physician thinks you are disabled.



  2. Marcia says:

    I am going to have hand surgery in 2 weeks. My doctor will put me off from work for 6-8 weeks. It will be through workerscomp. but is it possible for me to still get disability? If I can file for disability, when should I file it? And any advice to file easier or faster.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Marcia,

      You will not be eligible for Social Security or SSI disability because you must be disabled for or be expected to be disabled for twelve months to receive those benefits.



  3. michelle says:


    I don’t know where to begin. In February 2011 I got a stroke when I was 17. I graduated high school however, I don’t know where to start being that I’m 21, and still live in my parents house. I want to move out, and am currently employed at an action sport business and a donut shop. I don’t know if I can automatically get money because I’m disabled and I want to go back to school which recently I can drive (left foot gas pedal and a knob). I looked on google about disability councilors and advisors in Peoria, Arizona (which is where I live), but nothing to my needs. Help?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Michelle,

      If you are earning $1,070 or more gross per month, you will not be considered disabled by Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) law. If you are earning less, you might qualify for benefits depending on how much your condition limits you. As far as going to school, you might investigate scholarships by talking with admissions counselors at colleges and/or talk with the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation of your state to see whether they can provide guidance or assistance.


  4. Tony says:

    Hi Kay, I have had severe mental issues that have not allowed me to work for the last 4 years. I had pretty good earnings but could never hold a job down for more than 6 – 8 months due to ADHD Bi Polar and other issues. I have an appointment to see a psychiatrist today for the first time as I have been stubborn and did not want to face up to things but now I have to. I have lived off of possessions I sold over the years and stayed with friends and family but now I have noting and am very despondent. My question is as I have not worked for 5 years but I had possessions that I sold to sustain myself, will that be taken into account in SSDI app process and will that negatively affect me? I have nothing now and have NO income. Also can I backdate my condition in order to maximize available credits as I would have a better 10 year history to calculate from…thanks in advance for your help..

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Tony,

      You should claim the date that you became disabled whether it was when you last worked or some other later date. If your disability date is within five years of when you ceased work and you had enough work in the five years before you stopped work and if Social Security accepts your claimed disability date, you might be approved for Social Security Disability. Otherwise, your potential eligibility will be limited to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits. You will need proof of disability back at the disability date you claim and since then. List all medical providers you have seen about your conditions even though they were not psychiatrists, any hospitalizations, arrests attributable to mental illness, and any other proof of disability you might have, including statements from family and friends you stayed with.


  5. monique says:

    hi I have recently been disabled since Nov. 2013 due to a car accident me being the pedestrian I have been out of work 1yr now I was denied short term disability from the workers comp. board due to late filing because of complications from my employer im currently waiting on a hearing date as of still and been managing off public assistance is it possible for me to qualify for SSD being that ive been disabled a yr and have 3 kids and have more surgery coming up and am not expected to work any time soon if so how do I go about it

    • monique says:

      also will I qualify for back pay even though I never filed the claim

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Monique,

      I recommend that you file a Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) application right away. You can start an SSDI application online, but you will have to file the SSI application in a Social Security office, so you might as well make an appointment to do both in the office by calling 1-800-772-1213. SSI will not have back pay. If you file your application for Social Security soon, you can get retroactive benefits going back to June 2014, after then end of the five-month unpaid waiting period. Be sure to indicate on your application that you have a pending workers comp claim. The articles under the “Apply for SSD” tab on this website provide tips on filing an application.



  6. Carol says:

    My husand will be having surgery soon for an on the job injury. He will be receiving Workmans Comp – can he receive SSD to cover the % that Workmans Comp doesn’t cover of his salary?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Carol,

      If your husband will be disabled for twelve months, he can apply for Social Security Disability (SSD). His Social Security benefit will be limited in amount so that the workers comp and SSD together do not exceed his current average earnings as determined by the Social Security Administration.


  7. deana says:

    I am a substitute teacher, technically. I make an attempt every day to go to work, and most of the time 9 out of 10, I cannot go into work due to severe anxiety.
    I have filed for social security. I am not sure i filled out my application properly. I cannot tell if I answered the am i still working question properly. I am technically still employed, and my employer does not know i have this problem. I do not want to be taken off the list. I keep trying every day to go into work.
    Social Security sent me for a psychological consultation for depression, ptsd, and panick attacks and anxiety.
    I have also written a letter better describing my anxiety.
    Do I give them my letter? Do I call to make sure they understand that I am still technically employed and its just that I keep missing days due to my condition? I need help with my application. I want to make sure it is right. When do I get a lawyer? Do I wait to be denied, or should I get a lawyer now to be sure my application is completely filled out properly. I don’t want to lose my chance of getting approved based on a question I may not have answered correctly. Also, I do not have money for a lawyer to help me with the application, will they take my case before denial? Assuming I will automatically be denied like most cases? TY PS I applied in December but still will attempt to work. I have only been successful for one 4 hour shift since applying.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Deana,

      I suggest submitting the letter about the anxiety and add to it that you are signed up to be a substitute teacher but turn down nine of the ten calls you get to sub because you are too anxious to take the job. Provide the total amount you have earned each month since the date you are claiming as you disability date (a copy of your pay stubs will take care of that) and say you have been able to work only four hours in the last 30 days.

      As far as getting an attorney, you might be able to get someone to take the case to help with the application. If you are denied, do be sure to get an attorney. You can obtain a knowledgeable, experienced Social Security attorney by calling Disability Advisor at 1-888-393-1010. You do not have to pay any legal fees up front and you will pay attorney fees only if you are approved for benefits. Social Security law sets the amount your attorney can charge and the Social Security Administration pays the attorney directly from the retroactive award at the time it sends your back pay to you. So, it’s all very easy and risk-free.


  8. deana says:

    by social security i meant disability.

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