The Social Security Award Notice after Disability Benefits are Awarded

If the Social Security Administration determines that you are entitled to Social Security Disability and/or Supplemental Security income disability benefits (SSI), they will send an official award notice that provides an explanation of their decision, when you are entitled to disability benefits, and how much you will get each month.

Award letters generally do not include the amount of your back payment, if indeed you are entitled to any. Social Security does not provide this in the award notice because there may be deductions from the back pay amount.

For instance, Social Security pays attorneys or representatives (if the non-attorney has fee withholding privileges, their fee will be withheld from your back payment just as an attorney's would be) their fees and reduces any Social Security Disability back pay amount by the amount of SSI benefits paid to the disability beneficiary. SSI is a need based disability program, so all moneys must be paid back to the program if possible.

There is no way to gauge how long it will take to get your award notice if you are awarded benefits because it really depends upon the level of the Social Security Disability process at which you are approved for benefits. If you are awarded disability benefits at the initial disability claim or reconsideration appeal level, there is a good chance that you will receive your award letter within a few days of the medical determination -- unless your disability claim has to be processed at the payment center rather than the automated process.

If your disability benefits were awarded at a disability hearing, it could take a few weeks to get your actual award letter. Although you may have received a notice of decision from the hearings office already.

The notice of decision will explain the judge's decision to award you benefits and when they determined that you were disabled under the Social Security Disability guidelines.

The actual award letter from an administrative law judge hearing may take longer to receive because Social Security Disability hearing awards are sent to payment centers for processing rather than back to the local Social Security office. However, the hearing's award notice contains the same information as the award notices sent to individuals who are approved for benefits at the initial disability and reconsideration appeal.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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