Current course:  SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) Online Course: Adult Curriculum

Protective Filing Date & Establishing Date of Eligibility

One day can make a significant difference in when the person begins to receive benefits.

What Is a Protective Filing Date (PFD)?

The Protective Filing Date is the date the applicant first contacts SSA indicating an intent to file SSI and SSDI applications. (Case managers will help people apply for both.) This date is used to determine when an individual can start receiving SSI benefits.

Establishing a Protective Filing Date

A protective filing date is established with the first contact with SSA and sets the application process in motion for both SSI and SSDI. The process can be initiated in a variety of ways:
  • Walk in to SSA without an appointment
    • The walk-in date becomes the protective filing date
  • Call SSA to establish a date for an in-person interview or telephone interview
    • The date of the call becomes the protective filing date
  • Initiate the Online Disability Benefit Application (Online version of SSA-16: Application for SSDI)
    • This can establish the protective filing date for both SSI and SSDI if the application is submitted within 60 days.
    • You must complete sufficient information to save the application and get a re-entry number to protect the date.
    • Proceeding beyond the re-entry number screen will trigger the local SSA field office to move forward with the application and set an interview date to complete the application.
      • Note: The applicant should not proceed beyond the re-entry number screen until the case manager is ready to submit the complete SOAR application packet!
    • See step-by-step instructions for initiating the application and getting a re-entry number.

SSI Eligibility Date

SSA generally sets SSI eligibility as the first day of the full month following the date of application or the protective filing date. This means that the timing of a protective filing date makes a difference and can cost an applicant a month’s worth of benefits!
SSI Eligibility
The Difference a Day Makes
SSI eligibility begins on the first day of the full month following the date of application or protective filing date.
Protective filing date:   Eligibility date:
October 31 November 1
November 1 December 1 

SSDI Eligibility Date and Date of Onset

SSA uses a different method for determining the eligibility date for SSDI.
  • DDS reviews medical information and work activity to establish a date of onset of disability
  • Benefit eligibility begins with the date of onset
  • Payment begins after a five-month waiting period from the date of onset
  • SSDI eligibility date applies not only to SSDI, but (future) Medicare eligibility

SSDI Date of Onset Example:

Anne stopped working on January 1, 2004 due to severe depression.  Despite treatment she was unable to return to work. On September 1, 2005 she called SSA to make an appointment, thereby establishing her protective filing date.  On September 7, 2005 she completed her application and on December 31, 2005 she was approved.  Please see the timeline below to see how Date of Onset impacts Anne's receipt of benefits.

Date Last Insured (DLI)

The Date Last Insured (DLI) is a concept that applies only to SSDI claims.
  • The length of time that a person is insured after he or she stops working depends on how consistent a work record he or she has
  • The maximum length of time insured status lasts after a person stops working is 5 years

Determination of Insured Status

There are two kinds of insured status a person must have to be eligible for SSDI benefits, fully insured and disability insured.
  • To be fully insured, an individual must have 40 quarters (10 years of credited work) or 1 quarter of work credit for each year from age 21 to age of disablement
  • The work need not have been done in any particular year; it must merely meet the required total number of quarters, depending on the claimant’s age
  • To be disability insured, an individual must show a recent connection to the workplace
  • An individual must generally show 20 quarters (5 years of work) in the 40 quarters (10 years of work) immediately preceding when the person stopped working
  • This is also called the “20/40 Rule”