When is a Social Security Disability Application Considered Filed and Why is it Important?

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It should go without saying that to be found disabled under the Social Security disability system, it is necessary to apply for Social Security disability benefits by filing a valid application for benefits. (20 CFR § 404.603 and 20 CFR § 416.305.) But what is “valid” application?

For an application for Social Security disability benefits to be “valid,” the form used must be a form which the Social Security Administration has approved. Also, the application needs to be signed by the applicant for benefits (unless an exception applies). Unless very limited exceptions apply, the person seeking benefits must be alive at the time the application is filed. The person signing the application must sign under the penalties for perjury. Finally, filing the application with the Social Security Administration is required. (20 CFR § 404.610 and 20 CFR § 416.310.)

When is a disability application considered “filed” under the program rules? The default rule is the Social Security administration considers an application for disability benefits “filed” on the earlier of either the date of receipt of the application at a location approved by the Social Security Administration (usually a Social Security office) or on the protective filing date. (20 CFRE § 404.614 and 20 CFR § 416.325.) Many applications for Social Security disability are filed on the internet using the Social Security Administration’s secure website ( www.ssa.gov.) If the application is filed using the internet, then the filing date is the date which Social Security receives the completed application. [TIP: When using the internet to complete and file an application, Social Security will produce a receipt showing the date which the application was completed and successfully filed. It is important to print and save that receipt. The receipt can establish the date of filing.]


Sometimes, Social Security disability considers a Social Security application “filed” before the actual filing of the formal application. The designation of “filed” before actual filing is called “protective filing.” Social Security is very helpful when it comes to establishing a “protective filing date.” For example, a written statement to a Social Security office may establish a protective filing date if the writing shows the person seeking disability benefits sent a writing to a Social Security office. The person seeking benefits must sign the writing. The writing must evidence an intent to file a claim for disability benefits. Even a phone call to the local office is enough as long as the person seeking benefits expresses his or her intent to file a claim. Similarly, notification through the internet is sufficient as long as the person completes and submits the personal identification data on the online Social Security benefit form. A condition to establish a protective filing date for Title II benefits is a filing of a valid application within six months of the initial notice. (20 CFR § 404.630.) If the application is for Title XVI benefits, the filing of a valid application must occur within 60 days of the initial notice. (20 CFR § 416.340.) Interestingly, if a person files a Title II application, the act of filing a Title II application is treated by Social Security as an oral inquiry to file a Title XVI application. That means that a Title XVI protective filing date can be established as of the date of the filing of the Title II application as long as a valid Title XVI is filed within 60 days of the filing of the Title II application. (20 CFR § 416.350.)

A protective filing date is most important in Title XVI claims. The reason why the protective filing date is the most important for Title XVI claims is that benefits do not begin for a disabled person until earlier of the month after the date of filing a valid application or the month after the protective filing date.  In contrast, Title II benefit claims, the back benefits are all payable as long as the person seeking Title II benefits, files within 17 months of date of onset.  In other words, a protective filing date in Title II claims is only important when the time period between the onset date and the date of filing exceeds 17 months.

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