After you have been approved for Social Security disability benefits, you will receive an Award Letter.  These letters generally arrive one to three months after a decision has been rendered.  The length of time will depend on what kind of backlog Social Security is dealing with at that particular time. 

Award Letters answer most of the basic questions that a claimant will have, including:

  • How much they will receive in monthly benefits
  • What day of the month that monthly benefits will be deposited into their account
  • The amount of past due or back pay benefits that a claimant will receive (SSDI only)
  • The date that the past due or back pay benefits will be sent. (SSDI only)
  • The amount you owe your representative if you have one, and
  • The taxability of your benefits

To view a sample award letter, go here

SSI Award Letters do not contain information about back pay benefits because those benefits are determined separately after a claimant goes through a final end line interview which must happen after an Award Letter is issued, but before benefits will start to be paid.  End line interviews determine if SSI recipients meet low income and resource requirements in addition to having a qualifying disabling condition.

Once back pay has been determined, they will receive another letter with all the pertinent back pay details.  Unless the back payment is small, SSI beneficiaries will not receive back pay benefits in one lump sum.

After you have received your Award Letter, there are some things you will need to pay attention to going forward. 

First, if you receive an award, but you disagree with any part of it, including the amount, you have the right to file an appeal.  This is called a Reconsideration, and you must do so within 60 days of getting your letter.

When you applied for benefits, you should have signed up for your preferred method of payments, which are completed electronically.  You can receive payments by Direct Deposit, Direct Express or an Electronic Transfer Account, which is a low-cost federally insured program.  For some reason, if you did not sign up for your preferred method of payment, the Treasury Department will send your benefits to you via the Direct Express card program.

After you get your first payment, you will continue to receive them as long as you continue to qualify, meaning you remain disabled and unable to work.  However, if this changes, you are obligated to notify Social Security and let them know if your status has improved. Social Security conducts reviews from time to time to verify and evaluate your status.  They may do this by phone, direct mail or even pay you a visit at your home.    

When you start receiving benefits, you need to be aware that you are still obligated to pay taxes on them, except if you are receiving SSI benefits, which are never taxable.

 Once you have been receiving disability benefits for 24 months, you will be entitled to Medicare benefits if you are getting SSDI benefits. As you approach this 24-month benchmark, Social Security will send you information about enrollment in Medicare.  If you are receiving SSI benefits, then you will be eligible to receive Medicaid benefits, but without the prolonged waiting period.

You can request a copy of your Award Letter from Social Security by calling them toll free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or by contacting your local office. If a copy is not available, they can provide you with an official letter with the information you need.