Q: What is the disability waiting period?
A: Social Security disability requirements include a waiting period of five full calendar months before entitlement to benefits can begin. Benefits are paid starting for the sixth full month after the date a disability is determined to begin.
This date, called the onset, is when the person became disabled and not when the application was submitted or the decision made.
For example, say someone’s Social Security disability due to illness or injury was established as beginning on September 22, 2014, the onset date. The waiting period would be the five full months of October 2014 – February 2015 with payment effective starting with March. Since Social Security payments are made in the following month, payment for March arrives in April.
When a person files a disability application and approved near the onset date, he or she has to wait until the waiting period is completed before benefits start. If approved after the waiting period, benefits begin right away. Using the above example, if the person is approved for disability in January 2015, he or she is still in the waiting period and must finish it before benefits start. If the decision is made in May 2015, the waiting period is already completed and benefits can begin immediately. Either way, the waiting period applies.
In addition to the Social Security disability program, the Social Security Administration is responsible for the very different, low income, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. SSI also has disability benefits but does not have a disability waiting period. If eligible for both programs, a person might receive SSI during the Social Security waiting period. Then, when Social Security disability begins after the waiting period, the amount of those benefits will reduce or end the SSI.