FAQ – The Alleged Onset Date

Posted February 1, 2016 by Premier Disability Services, LLC® 1. What is the alleged onset date?

When an application is filed, the claimant must provide a date where they first became unable to work at the substantial gainful level due to their medically determinable impairments. In other words, they must “allege” a date when their inability to work began. This date is known as the alleged onset date (AOD).

2. Why is the AOD so important?

The AOD is important for multiple reasons. It becomes a starting point for collecting medical evidence since SSA generally does not give significant weight to treatment records from when a claimant is working. As a result, SSA and/or an appointed representative will focus primarily on treatment records starting around the AOD. In addition, the AOD is important because it may determine the amount of back pay benefits a claimant can receive. A claimant who is found disabled is entitled to start receiving benefits five months after their alleged onset date or a year prior to the date of the application, whichever is the later date. For this reason, claimants must give strong consideration to the precise date they became unable to work so that they do not lose out on benefits.

3. Is my AOD always the date I stopped working?

Not necessarily. It is not uncommon for a person to be laid off from a job for a reason completely separate from their impairments and then subsequently become disabled. It is important to allege a date of onset that is corroborated by the most compelling medical evidence.
Example: A claimant is filing for disability benefits based on injuries sustained in a motor vehicle collision in October of 2015. They technically stopped working in August of 2015 due to being laid off. The appropriate AOD would be the date of the accident and not the date they stopped working since that is when the medical evidence supports disability.

4. Do I have to stop working entirely to file for disability benefits?

The short answer is no. SSA’s definition of disability requires the inability to perform substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable impairment. SSA currently defines substantial gainful activity as earnings of $1,090 monthly. If a person’s earnings drop below this amount due to impairment, they can technically file for disability. However, it is important to remember that SSA can consider work activity as evidence that a person is not disabled, even if it is part time work.

5. Are there other factors to consider when determining my AOD?

Yes. There are multiple other factors that may complicate choosing an AOD. Specifically, unemployment benefits are one factor that can complicate the AOD. Most states require a person to certify they are “ready and able” to work in order to receive unemployment benefits. On the contrary, when a person alleges an onset date of disability, they are stating that this is the date they became unable to work. There is an inherent contradiction when unemployment benefits are received after the AOD. It is often a wise decision to allege a disability date after the unemployment benefits ended if at all possible.

Another factor that may affect the AOD is incarceration. SSA will not pay benefits for any month you are convicted of a crime and spend thirty continuous days incarcerated. If a person has been incarcerated close to the date they become disabled, it may be a good idea to allege an onset of disability after the incarceration ended.

6. Can SSA change my AOD?

Yes. If the medical evidence supports a date of disability that is different that the date alleged by the claimant, they can find the claimant disabled on that alternate date. This is known as an “Established Onset Date” (EOD). One of the most common reasons SSA will change the AOD is a major medical event occurred, such as a significant surgery or a stroke. Also, it is common for SSA to change an AOD due to a change in age categories (i.e. claimant turns 50 years of age) Claimants should be aware that if SSA changes their AOD to a date in the future it could reduce their back pay benefits. In that case, a claimant may have the right to appeal the decision if they disagree with the EOD.

By: Devon Brady of Premier Disability Services, LLC®