Not everyone who gets approved for disability receives past due benefits, but most do. The amount of past due benefits awarded depends on the date the claim was filed and the date that the judge or disability examiner concludes that the disability began. For past due benefits, this date must be before the date of the favorable decision, which means most people who file for SSI or social security disability will receive past due benefits.
If you filed for SSI, past due benefits may be awarded from the date of the application. For social security disability, past due benefits may be awarded from up to twelve months prior to the date of the application. There is a five month waiting period for social security disability past due benefits, however.
For example, suppose you have a hearing on June 1, 2010 and the judge found you to be disabled as of September 1, 2007. If you filed for SSI on May 1, 2009, you may receive past due benefits going back to May 1, 2009 because that is the date of your application. If you filed for social security disability on May 1, 2009, you may receive past due benefits going back to May 2008, since you are found to be disabled at least 17 months prior to the May 1, 2009 application date.
Most disability lawyers only charge a fee if you get back pay. So you could win your case with an attorneys help, and owe them no fee if you win, but get no past due benefits awarded. It would be better if you get back pay, but if you don’t at least you don’t have to pay anything to a disability lawyer. This is just another reason why using a lawyer to help you win your benefits is a wise decision, they only make a reasonable fee when they get you back pay.