Protective Filing

Protective Filing Status is obtained when an individual contacts the Social Security Administration (SSA) with the express purpose of applying for Social Security Disability benefits. Once this status is attained, the initial contact date is used as the claimant’s application date, even if it is earlier than the day on which the SSA receives the completed and signed application. This early filing date may have an effect on a claimant’s entitlement date, so affecting eligibility for benefits and back pay. If you file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), your protective filing date will be retained for six months; however, if you file for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), it will be preserved for only two months (SSI).

Although the Social Security Administration encourages you to apply for benefits online, the only method to obtain protective filing status is to make your claim in person. To be eligible for protective filing status, the Social Security Administration must receive a written and signed statement declaring an intent to file for benefits. This declaration can be as straightforward as “I intend to file for Social Security Disability benefits.” If the written statement is mailed to the Social Security Administration, the date of the statement will be determined by the postmark. While a Social Security official may create a written record upon request, these documents may occasionally go lost. As a result, it is prudent to save a copy of the written and date-stamped statement. It is much better to send this statement certified mail with a return receipt requested, as this will allow you to prove receipt.

Following receipt of this statement, the SSA will send you a notice requiring you to file an application within six months. The six-month term begins on the date the Social Security Administration mails its notice.

Missing a scheduled Social Security Disability appointment will jeopardize your protected filing date. If you are unable to keep your appointment, immediately contact Social Security to reschedule. The Social Security Administration should provide you a “closeout letter” establishing your protected filing period definitively.

While you can still file for Social Security Disability payments without a certified protective filing status, you risk losing benefits to which you would have been otherwise entitled, which might be substantial. As a result, it is always prudent to submit and maintain a protective filing statement with your local Social Security Disability office.