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You will not receive a Social Security disability check on the day that you become disabled. Instead, you will have to apply for Social Security disability benefits and part of the application will include proving when you became disabled. The date when you became disabled is known as your Social Security disability onset date.

How to Establish a Disability Onset Date

If you were hurt and became disabled as a result of a sudden accident, it may be easy to provide the date when your disability started. However, if you have a medical condition or illness, it might be more difficult to pinpoint the exact date on which you became disabled.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider the following factors in determining your onset date:

  • The date that you designate as your alleged onset date on your Social Security disability application.
  • The date on which you stopped working or stopped working enough to earn a significant income.
  • Your doctor’s opinion as to when your disability began and you became unable to work.
  • Your medical records.

It is important that the onset date be accurate because you may be eligible to receive Social Security disability beginning five months after your established onset date. In some cases, you may be able to receive compensation for months when your Social Security disability application was pending.

What If You Try to Work and You Are Unsuccessful?

In some cases, people with disabilities will attempt to work after their onset dates of disability. Unfortunately, they may find that their health problems only allow them to work for brief periods of time. This is what SSA calls an “unsuccessful work attempt.”  An unsuccessful work attempt occurs after a “significant break” from the time you stopped working or reduced your work and earnings below substantial gainful activity levels. Generally, the SSA considers a significant break to be at least 30 consecutive days or when you are forced to change to another type of work or employer.

You may be concerned that your unsuccessful work attempt will impact your disability onset date. However, if your work activity after your onset date of disability is considered an unsuccessful work attempt, it will not affect the date you alleged that you became disabled.

There are so many factors to look at when trying to pin down which is the correct onset date of disability. That is why it is important to sit down with your attorney and to fully discuss these issues before deciding what date is appropriate.

If you have questions about your established onset date or any other aspect of your Social Security disability application, please read our FREE report, Social Security Disability: What You Need to Know and start a live chat with us today.

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Morgan & Weisbrod LLP

by Paul B. Burkhalter
Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.


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