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Protective filing dates are important when applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. In this article, we’ll define the term “protective filing date” and explain how to establish one. 

Key Takeaways

  • A protective filing date is the date an individual first notifies the Social Security Administration (SSA) of their intention to apply for benefits
  • For Supplemental Security Income, the protective filing date determines when benefits begin
  • For Social Security Disability Insurance, the protective filing date affects how much an individual can receive in back pay
  • Protective filing dates may be established in person, online, by phone, or by mail

What Is a Protective Filing Date?

In the context of Social Security benefits, a protective filing date is the date that a person first contacts the Social Security Administration (SSA) with the intent to file an application for benefits. The protective filing date determines important factors such as back pay and benefit start dates. 

The protective filing date can be the date of formally filing the application, but it can also be another date established by prior verbal or written contact by phone, by mail, online, or in person. 

Protective filing dates are relevant to all types of Social Security benefits but are especially important for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). 

With Supplemental Security Income, the protective filing date determines when benefits begin. With Social Security Disability Insurance, the protective filing date affects how much an individual can receive in back pay. Back pay is a retroactive payment for a period when a person medically qualified for benefits but did not yet have their claim approved. 

How To Establish a Protective Filing Date for SSI

It is possible to establish a protective date for SSI in writing or orally. The options include:

  • Beginning to fill out an online application for SSI, saving the application, and receiving a reentry number. This establishes a protective filing date by triggering the local Social Security office to schedule an interview.
  • Calling the Social Security customer service line to set up a telephone interview or in-person meeting
  • Visiting the local Social Security office and stating an intention to seek SSI

To lock in the protective date, one must complete an SSI application within 60 days. Once the claim is approved, the eligibility for benefits will usually begin the first day of the calendar month following the protective filing date.

How To Establish a Protective Filing Date for SSDI

To establish a protective filing date for SSDI, one must provide a signed written notice of intent to apply for benefits. The signature can be provided remotely via a Social Security employee. As such, it is possible to establish the protective filing date online or by calling the Social Security Administration and asking a representative to document the protective date.

For SSDI, individuals have six months from the protective date to finish filing their application. If approved, they may be eligible for past-due benefits up to 12 months prior to the protective date if their disability began before they contacted the SSA about claiming benefits. 

Note that you can have somebody else, such as a Social Security lawyer, contact the SSA on your behalf to communicate that you intend to apply for SSDI. This will establish your protective filing date. It is always a good idea to retain the help of a Social Security professional when applying for benefits in order to ensure you apply properly and receive the maximum possible benefits.

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