You don’t understand why the Social Security office doesn’t believe your story. You filed a disability application with your medical records and the date of your accident, and you were approved for benefits—but now they’re telling you that you weren’t “disabled” until months after the accident. How is it possible for Social Security to decide when your injury began—and what can you do if they’re wrong?

Why Did the Social Security Administration Change My Disability Onset Date?

When you fill out an application for disability benefits, you must give a concrete date when your illness, injury or condition began, called the alleged onset date (AOD). You are stating that you have been unable to work since this date and are owed benefits from this date forward, so if you are approved, your past due benefits should cover the months from this date up to the present day.

In some cases, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will disagree with the date that applicants claim their condtion began. If SSA can find evidence that proves your disability began later, it can establish its own date, called the established onset date (EOD), and only pay benefits from that date forward.

The SSA’s ability to set your onset date can affect your benefits by:

  • Reducing the amount of back pay. If you are approved for disability benefits, you could potentially receive retroactive pay up to a year before your application date. In order to get 12 months in back pay, your disability must have begun at least 17 months before you applied due to the mandatory five-month waiting period. If your disability date is changed by the SSA, you could potentially lose hundreds or thousands of dollars in retroactive payments. 
  • Hurting your chances for approval. Your injury onset date can also affect whether or not you are approved for benefits, since applicants are required to be disabled (or expected to be disabled) for at least 12 months to qualify for disability. Your date of onset serves as the starting point of this 12-month period.

What Should I Do If I Disagree With the Onset Date Set by the SSA?

If you were approved for benefits but lost back pay due to the Social Security’s EOD, you should appeal the new onset date by asking for a reconsideration. However, asking for a review of the EOD will cause Social Security to review your entire case, so the SSA could decide to reverse your disability determination.

As trusted Social Security disability attorneys, we know that the SSA must have contrary medical or employment evidence to change the date of your onset. We can discover why your onset date was altered, and help you get the full amount of benefits you deserve. Email us at [email protected] to get started.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska