What Is the Elimination Period for SSA Disability Benefits?


The term “Elimination Period” sounds ominous and isn’t easily understood especially for Social Security. When you seek disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), you have to meet a number of requirements. This is particularly true for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits which are exclusively available for disabled persons. A Greenville Social Security disability lawyer can help you understand these requirements and fulfill them before you apply.

It is important to understand the set of requirements you must meet when qualifying for disability benefits. One of these requirements is waiting until the elimination period is over. Here is a look at what an elimination period is, and how it relates to applications for Social Security disability benefits.

What is the Elimination Period?

The elimination period is a period that is used to determine whether you have a short-term or a long-term disability. This period starts exactly on the date when your illness or injury becomes disabling. In SSA terms, it begins with the disability onset date.

The elimination period continues for a total of five months. If you still suffer from your disability at the end of the five-month period, you are eligible for disability benefits provided you meet other requirements. If your disability has improved and you are no longer disabled at the end of this period, you are effectively barred from seeking disability benefits.

Applying During the Elimination Period

It is important to note that you can still file an application for disability benefits during the elimination period. In fact, it is typically recommended that you don’t wait until the end of the elimination period to file an application for disability benefits.

This is because SSA can take quite some time in processing your application. On average, most applicants for disability benefits receive a decision in three to five months. This means that even if you file your application right after the onset date, your decision will likely come well after the elimination period is over.

This is why it is a good idea to file your application at the earliest. If you file your application after the elimination period ends, you may need to wait another few months for a decision. On the contrary, if you file the application during the elimination period, you can expect a decision right after the elimination period is over.

Why Does the Elimination Period Exist?

The ultimate purpose of the elimination period is to make sure that you have a long-term disability. You may be able to recover from a short-term disability within five months. However, a long-term disability takes much longer to improve, if it improves at all.

If the condition causing your disability goes away before the five months end, you don’t receive any benefits. This is because SSA deems your disability as a short-term condition, for which it offers no disability benefits. On the other hand, if your condition persists by the end of the elimination period, it qualifies as a long-term disability.

Exceptions to the Elimination Period

Two notable exceptions to the period exist. You are exempt from having to wait five months for disability benefits if:

  • You seek disability benefits through the Supplementary Security Income (SSI) program. This program operates differently from the SSDI program. Although it is generally easier to qualify for SSI benefits, the amount of benefits is significantly lower than SSDI benefits. On the upside, you don’t have to wait five months to start receiving benefits. If your application is approved, you can start receiving benefits within a month of your disability onset date.
  • You were previously approved for disability benefits. If you previously received disability benefits and these were later discontinued because you started working, you can reapply if your disability returns. In such a case, you will be able to undergo expedited application processing. You will also be able to avoid the five-month elimination period.

How Can a Greenville Social Security Lawyer Help?

If you are applying for disability benefits, it is important to consult a qualified lawyer. The elimination period is one of the numerous requirements to quality for SSDI benefits. You will need to meet these requirements if you want your claim to be successful.

Here at J. Robert Surface, we help applicants file for disability benefits and get these benefits. Our lawyers work with you through the process of filing an application to ensure your application is error-free. If your initial application is denied, we also help you file an appeal and have the decision reversed. Contact us now to discuss your disability benefits claim with our lawyers.