If you are awarded Social Security Disability insurance benefits and you have been disabled for more than five months before the date of your award you will be entitled to a back award, which will be paid in a lump sum. There is a five month waiting period for disability insurance benefits, so you are not paid for the first five months of disability. However, benefits can be awarded for up to one year prior to the date of your application for disability benefits. If you have to pursue your claim through the administrative law judge level the additional delay will also be included in your back award. Therefore, your lump sum payment of back award benefits for social security disability may be very substantial.
If you are awarded SSI benefits, the rules are different. Benefits will not be awarded prior to the date of your SSI application, and you are only eligible for benefits beginning with the first full month of disability. However, there is no five month waiting period for SSI benefits and it is therefore very likely that you will be entitled to some amount of back award. However the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 requires that if your past due monthly SSI benefits exceed three times the maximum monthly benefit your back award will be paid in up to three installment payments, six months apart. Installment payments are limited to three times the maximum monthly benefit. However that limit only applies to the first two installment payments. If a third installment payment is necessary, then all remaining benefits will be included in that installment payment.
There are certain exceptions to the installment payment requirements; for example if you have outstanding debts relating to food, clothing, or shelter, or if you have necessary medical needs. If you believe you are entitled to an exception and should have your benefits paid sooner, you should contact Social Security at 1 (800) 772-1213.