Even when you are represented by a lawyer, it is good to be aware of some of legal terminology used by lawyers and judges in Social Security Disability cases. One of the terms that I have noticed that many of my Social Security Disability clients get confused with is the term "onset date" or "disability onset date".
The "disability onset date" or the "DOD", as some disability examiners call it, is the date when a claimant has enough medical evidence to prove that he or she meets the definition of disability under the Social Security rules. The definition of disability under Social Security is very strict and is very different from other programs. No payments are payable under Social Security for partial disability or for short term disability (less than 12 months). Therefore, it is important to note that the onset date is not necessarily the date when a person was diagnosed with an illness or condition or, when the person began to feel sick or limited by a disease or physical injury. The onset of disability is the date when the condition finally prevented the claimant from working.
There is often a gray area as to when a condition prevented a person from working. This is why Administrative Law Judges (ALJ's) often raise this issue at the hearing. At this point, I find that it is very helpful if my client is fairly well acquainted with Social Security rules, particularly with the term "onset date". Judges often may request that a different (usually later) onset date be used in order to allow a favorable decision. Amending the onset date at the hearing is in some circumstances something positive. In many instances, an amended onset date results in a favorable decision. However, the claimant gives up past due benefits owed between the original onset date requested and the amended onset date.