Elimination Period: What Is It and Why Does It Exist?

If you are disabled, you may be eligible for cash assistance from Social Security. Once a disability application is approved, payments begin following a period known as the elimination period.

In other words, even if the SSA approves your application for disability payments, you may have to wait many months before receiving your first check in the mail. This is because disability benefits include a five-month elimination period. Before understanding why there is an elimination period or the exceptions to this, we must talk about what exactly this period is. 

What Is The Elimination Period?

An elimination period is a term that is frequently used in insurance policies. It refers to the period between the onset of your impairment and the beginning of your benefits. The Social Security Disability Insurance Program has a five-month elimination period. During this period, you are not eligible for any program benefits.

The elimination period commences one month following the day on which:

  • Social Security decided that you were eligible based on your application and medical documents
  • You met the requirements for Social Security insurance based on your earnings

The Social Security elimination period begins on the date your injury or sickness becomes incapacitating, sometimes referred to as your "disability starting date." According to the legislation, you can begin receiving disability payments only once you have been disabled for a minimum of five months. This implies that if you become disabled in January, you will not qualify for Social Security disability benefits until June.

Why Is There An Elimination Period?

The five-month elimination period is in place because the Social Security Administration (SSA) pays benefits only to those with long-term disabilities. Rather than providing you disability payments only to discover later that you had a temporary disability, the SSA will simply wait five months before starting payments.

If your illness or injury resolves before the five-month elimination period, you will lose your disability benefits eligibility.

What Are The Exceptions To The 5-Month Period?

There are two exceptions to the five-month period of elimination. Firstly, if you were previously disabled and the SSA approved your disability benefits application, you can immediately begin receiving benefits for your present disability. This exception applies to those who are only reestablishing their benefits.

Second, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are not subject to a waiting period. If the SSA approves your application for this form of disability benefit, you can begin receiving benefits during the first full month after the date of your application. SSI benefits, on the other hand, are frequently less than typical SSDI benefits.

It is critical to understand that if you apply for SSI, you will most likely not receive payments immediately. Rather than that, you are more likely to obtain back payments because of the length of time required for SSA application clearance.


The process of getting approved for disabilities is a complex one. Even when you are approved, you must wait an additional 5 months — the elimination period — before you can begin receiving payments. This ensures that the SSA only pays for long-term disabilities. 

If you suffer from a long-term ailment that's keeping you from making a living, you may be eligible to file for disabilities. Check out more resources at Disability Help to better familiarize yourself with different processes like checking the status of your disability

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Victor Traylor
An expert to the field of Social Justice, Victor formed Disability Help to connect ideas and expertise from the US with rising global cultural leadership, building networks, fostering collaboration, long-term results, mutual benefit, and more extensive international perception.
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