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A protective filing date is the date that you initially notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) of an intention to apply for benefits. It can be the date you formally file the application, but it can also be established by a prior written or verbal contact by phone, by mail, in person or online.
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You get a protective filing date no matter what type of benefit you’re seeking, but it’s particularly important in connection with Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the two benefits Social Security administers for people with disabilities.
With SSI, the protective filing date determines when your benefits begin, if your claim is approved. With SSDI, it affects how much you could receive in back pay, a form of retroactive payment for a period in which you were medically qualified for benefits but your claim had not yet been approved.
The process for establishing a protective filing date differs slightly for SSI and SSDI. Here’s how it works for each type of disability benefit.
SSI protective filing date
You can establish your protective date for Supplemental Security Income orally or in writing. For example:
- Start filling out an online application for disability benefits. Once you enter a certain amount of information, you can save the application and get a reentry number that allows you to continue it later. Doing this establishes your protective filing date by triggering the local Social Security office to move forward and schedule an interview, as is required for SSI.
- Call Social Security's national customer service line (800-772-1213) to set up a telephone interview or in-person meeting at a local Social Security office.
- Pay a visit to your local office. If you state an intention to seek SSI, that date will be your protective date. Local offices fully reopened April 7 after being closed to walk-in traffic for more than two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Social Security recommends calling in advance and scheduling an appointment to avoid long waits.