Question C: When do disability benefits start?

Disability benefits for workers and widows usually cannot begin for 5 months after the established onset of the disability. Therefore, Social Security disability benefits will be paid for the sixth full month after the date the disability began. The 5-month waiting period does not apply to individuals filing as children of workers. Under SSI, disability payments may begin as early as the first full month after the individual applied or became eligible for SSI.

In addition, under the SSI disability program, an applicant may be found "presumptively disabled or blind," and receive cash payments for up to 6 months while the formal disability determination is made. The presumptive payment is designed to allow a needy individual to meet his or her basic living expenses during the time it takes to process the application. If it is finally determined that the individual is not disabled, he or she is not required to refund the payments. There is no provision for a finding of presumptive disability or blindness under the Title II program.