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[Excerpt] Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is authorized by Title II of the Social Security Act and provides income replacement for eligible individuals who are unable to work due to a long-term injury or illness that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Current eligibility requirements include (1) verification of an applicant’s disability, (2) filing a claim, (3) a “recent work” and “duration of work” test, (4) verification that an individual has not reached normal retirement age, and (5) a five-month waiting period from disability-onset.

In implementing the five-month waiting period for SSDI benefits, Congress sought to set a time frame that would be long enough for a short-term injury or illness to be corrected, but would also deter individuals who can work from applying for benefits. The first month counted as part of the waiting period can be no more than 17 months before the month of application, and benefits can be applied retroactively for up to 12 months. The Social Security Administration (SSA) encourages eligible individuals to apply for benefits as soon as possible after the onset of a disabling condition.

The waiting period does not apply to individuals who have been previous recipients of SSDI in the five years prior to any current disability. Several other programs, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), temporary disability insurance, workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation, and private disability insurance, can provide funds for eligible SSDI applicants facing financial hardship during the five-month wait period.

This report explains the five-month waiting period and its legislative history and will be updated to reflect legislative activity


Suggested Citation
Moulta-Ali, U. (2012). Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): The five-month waiting period for benefits. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.