Receiving a Disability Award Letter

SSD and SSI Award Notices

by Tim Moore, Disability Representative in North Carolina

What is the Social Security Disability Award Letter?

It is a notice that refers to the fact that your claim for SSD or SSI has been approved and it details the amounts you will receive (more on this below).

(Read if you live in North Carolina)

How does Social Security notify individuals that their claim has been approved for Social Security Disability or SSI? Social Security notifies all individuals who apply for disability benefits by mail. If your disability claim has been approved, you will receive a disability award letter (following the notice of decision) and if your claim has been denied you will receive a denial letter.

Contact your Representative when you receive your Award Notice

If you have a disability representative who has helped to win your case, that person will receive a copy of the notice and can explain everything in the letter. Sometimes, because of the bureaucratic language used, these notices can be confusing. However, your representative can help explain when you should expect your benefits to begin and can also make calls to Social Security if something in the notice needs more explanation.

What does kind of information is included in a Social Security award letter?

A Social Security Disability award letter will include the following information:

  • The date that you are entitled to begin receiving your disability benefits (in other words, how far back your disability status was established).
  • How much your monthly disability benefit amount will be.
  • When you should expect to receive your first disability payment.

Just how long it takes to receive a Social Security Disability or SSI award letter depends upon the level at which your disability claim is approved. For instance, if you receive an approval for SSD or SSI at the initial claim (meaning the disability application level) or reconsideration appeal level, you may receive your disability award letter within three months.

Getting the Notice of Award after you have had a hearing

However, if you do not receive your disability approval until the disability hearing level, you will first receive a letter from the hearing office stating you have been approved. This letter is a Notice of Decision. However, your actual award letter or Notice of Award, that spells out how much money you will receive–and when–may take another six weeks or so to arrive.

Why does the Social Security Disability award letter take so long to arrive when a disability case is at the hearing level?

There are two reasons. The first is that some judges are faster than others at making decisions and getting decision notices written and sent out.

The second is that because the hearings offices send all of their allowances to regional payment centers to be processed. These payment processing centers have huge volumes of cases to process and are understaffed. This, of course, means that the time required for receiving an award letter will be longer.

Sometimes, it happens quickly

But in some instances, the system is fairly unpredictable. For example, it happens fairly regularly that a claimant who has been approved may even receive their first Social Security benefits before they have received their official Social Security Disability award letter.