Legalese Defined: Social Security Disability– Onset Date

In social security disability cases, your onset date is the date your disability began.

Your onset date is important to your claim for social security disability benefits because it helps determine whether or not your claim is approved and how much  back-pay you may be entitled to.  Because you must be disabled for at least 12 months (or expect to be disabled for 12 months), your onset date determines when that clock starts running.  Then, once your application is approved, the Social Security Administration uses your onset date to calculate how long you’ve been entitled to benefits and pays you retroactively for those months you were eligible but not yet approved.

Example:  You were in a car accident on June 1, 2012.  As a result of that car accident, you became disabled.  Your onset date would be June 1, 2012.  After several months of physical therapy your doctor tells you that you will be disabled permanently.  Because you know you will be disabled for longer than 12 months, you decide to apply for social security disability in April 2013.   Then, it takes several months for your application to be approved.  Finally, on August 1, 2013 the Social Security Administration approves your application, with an onset date of June 1, 2012 and awards you back pay to November 1, 2012 (because there is a 5 month waiting period during which you are not eligible for benefits).