Can Using a Lawyer Get Me More Backpay?

Even unrepresented claimants who are successful and win their claims may not obtain the most favorable "onset date," which affects how much backpay they get. The date of onset of the disability determines how much a claimant will receive in back pay; therefore, being able to prove the earliest possible onset is of extreme importance for a Social Security disability or SSI claimant.

The alledged onset date, or AOD, is the date that you claim, or "allege," on your Social Security application, that your disability  -- that is, your inability to work -- began.

With Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you can get retroactive pay as far back as 12 months from the date you apply for benefits -- if you were disabled before that point. To get a full 12 months in back pay, you'd have to have become disabled at least 17 months before the date you applied, as there is a five-month waiting period after becoming disabled during which benefits are not paid or owed. (There is no retroactive pay for SSI--if you get approved, you'll get paid benefits from the month you apply.)  

Why Is the Onset Date, or AOD, Important?

The AOD determines how much in past due benefits, or back pay, you can get. For example, say that, when you applied for SSDI on 12/1/2010, you alleged that your disability began on 9/1/2010. The Social Security Administration (SSA) approves your benefits on 12/1/2011. If the SSA agrees with your onset date of 9/1/2010, you would be paid back pay benefits for 2/1/2011 to the present (five

months after your AOD of 9/1/2010).

If, on the other hand, the SSA disagrees with your onset date and says that you weren't disabled until 2/1/2011, you would get benefits paid only from 7/1/2011 (five months after your onset date of 2/1/2011). This could mean the difference of several thousand

dollars in back pay.

The onset date could also have a role in whether or not your claim is approved, since you must be disabled for 12 months (or are expected to be disabled for 12 months) to qualify for disability benefits. The date of onset is when the clock starts ticking for this 12-month du rational requirement.

When Can the SSA Change Your Alleged Onset Date?

If the SSA disagrees with the date you became disabled, it can establish an onset date later than you think is correct. If the SSA sets the onset date, it's called the established onset date (EOD), rather than the alleged onset date (AOD). However, the SSA has to have contrary medical evidence to show that your alleged date is wrong and that its EOD is correct.

To determine your EOD, the SSA will look at your AOD, when you last worked, and what the medical evidence shows.

What Can You Do If the SSA Changes Your AOD?

If the SSA changes your AOD to a later EOD, causing you to lose some back pay, you can appeal the new established onset date by asking the DDS to do a reconsideration of the EOD. But beware: when you appeal the onset date, the DDS or SSA can review the disability determination and could potentially reverse your approval. If you've been approved for benefits, you should speak to a

disability lawyer for help appealing an EOD.

Sometimes when the SSA changes your AOD to a later EOD, it is still more than 17 months earlier than the date you applied for disability benefits, so the change in date won't matter, since you can't get paid back pay benefits for more than 12 months before your application date (plus the five-month waiting period).

When Are the AOD and EOD the Same?

If you are approved for benefits and the SSA/DDS (either an ALJ (administrative law judge) or a disability claims examiner) decides that your disability began when you alleged, the AOD effectively becomes the EOD.