At some point after a Social Security disability benefits claim has been reviewed and approved, a claimant will receive an official verification of benefits letter. The information in this letter is extremely important since it outlines the details of what you should expect in terms of the monthly benefits you’ll receive. An applicant may also need this letter to verify Social Security benefits or income – for example, when applying for a loan. It’s an important piece of personal documentation that you should know how to access whenever you need it.
- What’s Included in a Social Security Benefit Verification Letter?
- What is a Social Security Award Letter?
- What’s Included in a Social Security Award Letter?
- How Long Does It Take to Get an Award Letter from Social Security?
- How to Get a Copy of Your Social Security Award Letter
- How Can I Appeal My Award Letter?
- Your Social Security Award Letter
What’s Included in a Social Security Benefit Verification Letter?
- Identifying information
- Monthly estimated benefit amount
- When to expect benefit payments
- Amount of back pay to be expected, if any
- Amounts owed to representatives
- Taxability of your benefits
- How to appeal
The Social Security Administration offers two programs that help American workers who suffer disabilities that keep them from working. First is the Supplemental Security Insurance program, which is funded by taxpayers and provides assistance for basic needs to those with qualifying incomes. SSDI, on the other hand, works more like the Social Security retirement benefit program you might be familiar with – all American workers pay Social Security taxes into the SSDI system and earn credits than then help determine their eligibility for SSDI benefits if they become disabled.
No matter whether you apply for SSI or SSDI benefits, once a decision has been made in your favor, the Social Security Administration will send you an official Social Security benefits letter. You may also hear this letter referred to as a “benefits letter,” “budget letter,” “proof of income letter,” or a “Social Security award letter.” No matter the specific term, this letter can serve as verification of your retirement, Supplemental Security Income, Medicare premium benefits, Medicaid coverage, and Disability (SSDI). Since it contains such important and relevant information about your Social Security income situation, this letter can be used to verify income anytime you need it, such as for a mortgage or other loan, housing assistance, and other benefit programs.
What is a Social Security Award Letter?
Your Social Security award letter is official documentation from the SSA about your approval of SSDI or SSI benefits. It’s important to note that this letter is specifically about the approval of your disability benefits – it exists separate and apart from your Social Security statement, which outlines the estimated benefits you’ll receive upon retirement from the SSA. Once a case has been decided, the SSA will always mail a disability benefit verification letter to the applicant, and you should expect to receive it through the U.S. Postal Service, not through any other mailing service.
What’s Included in a Social Security Award Letter?
In general, your Social Security award letter will outline the following details:
Your Social Security award letter will include your full name and your date of birth. While that may be obvious information, it also helps concretely tie the Social Security benefits outlined in the letter with you as the recipient. If you need to show verification of benefits, this will help you do so.
Monthly Estimated Benefit Amount
Your SSDI or SSI benefit verification letter will meticulously outline the amount you should expect to receive in monthly benefits. This monthly benefit is based largely on your lifetime average earnings that are covered by Social Security.
When to Expect Benefit Payments
When you applied for your benefits, at some point you were asked to submit your preference for the day of the month you’d like to receive your monthly payments. There is no standard payment date for SSDI or SSI benefits – they are customized to each recipient. Once you know exactly when in the month to expect your benefits, you can plan how best to pay all your monthly bills on time.
You should also expect to receive your benefits via direct deposit, so make sure you have a bank account set up in order to receive your funds. You no longer have to wait to receive a Social Security check by mail.
Amount of Back Pay to Be Expected, If Any
If your application process took long enough for back benefits to accrue, your disability award letter will list the full amount of back pay you are due, along with when you should expect to receive that payment. SSDI or SSI back pay is typically given as a one-time lump sum, usually within 60 days of your claim being approved. Your start date for back pay purposes is typically the day you apply for disability benefits.
Amounts Owed to Representatives
During the application process, if you identified a representative payee that you would like to handle your benefits payments and manage them, that person will be listed officially within your verification letter. You do not have to name a representative payee – that is an entirely personal choice, but any previously identified representatives on your behalf will be listed within your letter. If you worked with a disability lawyer throughout the application process, that attorney is entitled to 25% of your back benefits, up to but not exceeding $6,000.
Taxability of Your Benefits
If your disability benefit is taxable, that fact will be listed within your letter. For the most part, SSDI benefits are not taxable, but if you are receiving more than $25,000 for an individual and $32,000 for a couple, up to 50% of that income may be considered taxable. Any lump sum disability payment you receive as back benefits or past due benefits also will be included in that amount, which often drives earnings over those thresholds.
How to Appeal
The SSA recognizes that claims are complicated, and you may not agree with all elements of the SSA’s decision, especially when it comes to your initial claim. In addition to spelling out the elements of its decision and the details of your benefits, your disability award letter will also include instructions for how to appeal any part of the SSA’s decision if you’re unhappy with it.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Award Letter from Social Security?
You can expect to receive an official award letter anywhere from one to three months after your disability claim is approved. But keep in mind that, as with most situations related to benefits claims, that timing can vary widely depending on the specifics of your situation. In rare cases, some claimants have seen benefits deposited into their bank accounts before their award letter arrives.
How to Get a Copy of Your Social Security Award Letter
For your original award letter, you don’t need to do anything. Once a decision is made regarding your claim, the SSA will automatically send your letter to the address associated with your Social Security number. Keep in mind that it may take a few months after the time of the decision for you to receive your letter. Once you receive your letter, try to keep it in a safe place, but one that you can access easily.
If you need a copy of your Social Security award letter, you can always request additional copies from the SSA. You can either call or visit your local field office to make that request. If you have an online My Social Security account, you can also instantly download a copy of your disability benefit verification letter.
How Can I Appeal My Award Letter?
If you disagree with any portion of your award letter, it’s important to quickly file an appeal. If you’re working with a disability attorney, your lawyer can help you with this part of the process. You must file your appeal within 60 days – you can do so online, or you can complete form SSA 561, which is a request for reconsideration. Keep in mind that your 60 days start five days after the date of your letter. The SSA assumes that you will receive your letter within five days.
Once your appeal is filed, the SSA will send you a written redetermination – after a reviewer not involved in the original process looks at your claim. At this point, if you’re still in disagreement with the decision, you, or your disability lawyer on your behalf, can request an in-person hearing in front of an administrative law judge. As with your original appeal, you must make this request within 60 days of the date on your redetermination letter. If you go this route, you must appear in person before the administrative law judge.
In some cases, the administrative law judge may allow for a conference call or video conference, but most of the time, you are expected to appear for your hearing in person, and the SSA may cover the travel expenses to get you there, depending on how far you’d need to travel. At this point, the administrative law judge may also require you to submit to additional medical testing or exams to help support your claim’s validity. You can call witnesses to speak on your behalf, and the judge may request input from medical experts and/or call for additional medical evidence or documentation. Once the hearing is complete, you will receive an additional letter that outlines the details of the judge’s decision.
If you still disagree with the decision, you can request a review from Social Security’s Appeals Council, which reviews your case to ensure that all elements of Social Security law and SSA policy were correctly applied throughout the process. The final step in the appeals process, if the Appeals Council returns unfavorable results, is to refer the case to federal district court.
Some claimants may disagree with the date at which payments are scheduled to begin or the determination of back pay. In this case, you may work with your disability lawyer to challenge the date, based on when you applied and when your condition became severe enough to prevent you from working.
You may be entitled to retroactive disability payment, which differs slightly from back pay. Back pay simply goes back to the date of your application, while retroactive pay can go farther back to the onset of a disability. This sometimes happens for claimants who wait to apply for benefits rather than applying immediately in response to their disabling condition.
Your Social Security Award Letter
The wait time for your SSI or SSDI benefit verification letter can feel like forever, but with the right documentation and the right level of legal advice, you will eventually receive your benefits. Once your letter arrives, read it carefully to make sure you understand the terms outlined for your monthly disability benefit amount, dates of payments, and back pay, if applicable.
You may also want to share this information with any disability attorney you’ve worked with throughout the process. If you’re in disagreement with any terms outlined in the letter, it’s important to act quickly to appeal. It’s important to keep a copy of your Social Security award letter in case you need it, either for your appeal or as a proof of income for a wide variety of potential needs.