SSI & Back Payments

The Social Security Administration handles Supplemental Security Income. As with most federal government operations, a rule exists for every situation, and SSI is no exception. In the case of back pay, a law controls the procedure. This law has been in effect for four years, so individuals who encountered this issue before that date will follow a different procedure.

SSI Determination

There are three classes of SSI recipients: blind, disabled and over age 65. Each class must prove eligibility by condition and need. SSI recipients must prove low income and low resources along with one of the other three qualifiers. Disability is more difficult to prove than blindness or being over age 65. Often, disability takes a long time to resolve with SSI, and your benefits can be retroactive to the date of application, not to the date of disability, or to 12 months prior to application, like Social Security disability payments. If you make an appointment, benefits may be retroactive to the date of the call for an appointment.

Back Pay Rules

Social Security must pay your state back for any advanced funds or interim assistance you received while waiting for your SSI benefits. After those payments are made to the state in which you live, Social Security divides your SSI back payments. Your back payments include any funds remaining to be paid to you, payable in three installments six months apart. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, signed into law in 2006, requires this procedure.


In some circumstances, Social Security can pay a beneficiary early. Social Security may increase the first and second payments if you have debts for food, clothing, shelter or medical needs. Another regulation limits the first two payments to three times the maximum monthly SSI benefit. The maximum monthly benefit in 2011 is $674, and three times that amount would be $2,022. Two situations exist that may permit a lump-sum payment. If a determination discloses that your medical condition may result in death within 12 months, you may qualify for a single payment. If you become ineligible for SSI and may likely be ineligible for 12 months, you may receive a single lump sum.


Payments distributed over time are helpful to the SSI recipient in controlling resources and income limits. Receipt of a large lump sum for back payments can potentially make the recipient ineligible for SSI benefits. A lump sum payment becomes a resource in nine months, and resources must remain under the $2,000 limit for continuation of SSI benefits.

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