Your SSI Claim Was Just Approved. Are You Due Back Payments?

You've been waiting a long time for your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability claim to be approved. Now that your claim is finally approved, you may be due a sizable payment once your back payments are figured. Read more to learn about what you can expect to happen next.

What are back payments and for when are you owed them?

Your back payments (also called "backpay" and "past due" benefits) represent the money that you would have received each month if your claim had been approved when you first applied.

People who qualify for SSI benefits are eligible for a check for the first full month after their protective filing date (usually the date that you first contacted Social Security to start the claims process).

For example, if you called the Social Security office on January 22, 2014, to make an appointment to file for SSI, that is your protective filing date -- even if you didn't actually file until February 2, 2014. The first check that you would be due would be for February 1, 2014.

However, if you just walked into an office on February 2nd and filed a claim, without previously contacting Social Security, you wouldn't be due a check until March 1, 2014. In this case, your actual filing date and protected filing date are the same.

How is the amount of your back payment determined?

Supplemental Security Income operates as a "needs-based" program for the elderly and disabled, so any changes in your household's monthly income can affect the amount of your monthly check. You will generally have to meet with a Social Security claims representative to go over your financial history for each month that you might be due a back payment before the benefits can be paid.

Because each past due monthly payment has to be calculated separately, how long it takes you to get your back payments depends a lot on your individual circumstances. If your household income rarely or never varied, the calculations should go quickly. If your spouse worked several jobs or had variable income over the year or two that you've been waiting on your claim, the calculations can take much longer.

When will the back payment be paid?

Because each case is so individual and the calculations can be complex, it's not unusual to have your monthly benefits start first and receive the back payment later.

The first two installments of your back benefits cannot be larger than three times the current maximum monthly SSI benefit. That means that in 2015, the most that you will receive in your first two lump-sum payments would be $2199, paid at 6-month intervals.

Any benefits you are due beyond that will all be paid in the third and final payment, no matter how much you are owed.

There are some limited exceptions to the rules regarding the lump-sum payments, such if your condition is terminal or you have an emergency situation related to food, clothing, shelter, or medical care. If you do, talk with your attorney or the Social Security claims representative handling your case to ask about an expedited payment. For more information, visit or a similar website.