After being approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income payments (SSI) by an Administrative Law Judge, individuals are often concerned about the payment process. Although you have been approved for benefits, it is important to realize that you will not receive your payments immediately. The ALJ simply found that you qualified for benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must still process your payments.
When you are approved for benefits, your Social Security file is transferred back to the SSA District Office closest to your mailing address. Luckily in today’s electronic file age, this step happens almost immediately after your decision is issued. The payment process depends on the type of benefit you are entitled to from SSA, and whether you have received Workers Compensation.
Entitled to only Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
If you were found eligible only for SSDI, your payments are determined by a National Payment Center or a Regional Program Service Center. A Notice of Award is issued indicating the months that you are eligible to receive payments, the total amount of benefits that you are due, and if you are only receiving SSDI, information on when your benefits will be paid.
Normally if you are only entitled to SSDI, you are paid quickly after an ALJ decision. The majority of my clients that only qualify for SSDI receive their past-due benefits within 30 days of the ALJ decision, and begin to receive monthly benefits the month following their decision.
Entitled to only Supplemental Security Income Payments (SSI)
If you are only eligible for SSI, the determination of your payments is made at your local SSA office. You are contacted by a Claims Representative at SSA and asked to provide financial information for every month that you are eligible for payments. The local office will be interested in any assistance that you had from friends or family, any work that you performed, assets that you own, and money that is held in any bank or retirement accounts. You will also be asked to provide information about unearned income from unemployment, disability benefits, Workers Compensation, pension programs, or any other source.
Since SSI is a poverty-based disability program, your benefit eligibility may be reduced if you have had financial support from any other source. If you lived somewhere for free, your benefits are normally reduced by one-third of the maximum monthly rate. Since specific information is needed to determine your eligibility, no payments can be released until your local office confirms your financial eligibility.
When you are entitled to past-due benefits from SSI, you must be paid in installments if you are entitled to more than three times the maximum monthly benefit for SSI. In 2009 and 2010, the maximum SSI benefit is $674 per month. If your past-due benefits exceed $2022, you will be paid in 2 to 3 installments six months apart. If you are still owed past-due SSI after your first installment payment of a maximum of $2022, your second payment will be received six months later. The maximum you receive in the second installment is also three times the maximum monthly SSI amount. If after your second installment you were still owed past-due SSI payments, you will receive the remainder of your past-due benefits in your third installment (which will be paid six months after your second installment and one year following your first payment).
It normally takes between 30-60 days for an individual to receive their first payment if they are approved for SSI. If you are approved for SSI, the most important thing is to provide all required financial information to SSA as soon as possible after your decision. If you fail to respond to requests from SSA, you will not receive your payments.
Entitled to SSDI, but also Received Workers Compensation
If you are approved for SSDI, but also have received any Workers Compensation for the period before or during your disability, SSA will also need documentation of your Workers Compensation amounts. Even if you received Workers Compensation for an injury that is not related to your disability, your SSDI payments can be reduced because of your Workers Compensation. You must provide documentation of any weekly or bi-weekly payments and lump sums that you received (including permanency, disfigurement, or commutations).
When you have received Workers Compensation and you are approved for SSDI, it is normal to experience delays before your past-due benefits and monthly payments are processed. It normally takes between 60 to 120 days for these issues to be resolved. The faster that you provide proof of your Workers Compensation payments, the faster your SSDI payments will be released.
If you provide inaccurate or incomplete information to SSA, you may be paid too much. Normally if the Social Security Administration needs additional information about your Workers Compensation, your Notice of Award will indicate that your payments cannot be determined until you provide additional documentation regarding your Workers Compensation. If you received Workers Compensation, but is not mentioned in your Notice of Award, you are obligated to inform SSA of the mistake.
Entitled to both SSDI and SSI
If you are entitled to both SSDI and SSI, it is common to experience lengthy delays in having your past-due benefits processed. Normally when you are approved for both programs, you are found to be entitled to past-due benefits from SSI, but only monthly benefits from SSDI. After your SSI past-due benefits are determined, SSA will reduce your past-due SSDI by the amount that you received from SSI. This is because you are only entitled to receive the Social Security benefit that would provide you most money on a monthly basis.
Although your monthly benefits normally begin 30 to 60 days after receiving your ALJ decision, it is common to experience delays of 2 to 6 months before receiving your past-due benefits. It is also normal to receive part of your benefits from SSI, and part of your past-due benefits from SSDI.
The reason for the lengthy payment delays is that both the your local SSA District Office and the National Payment Center are required to complete work before you can receive your past-due benefits. If your SSI payments have not been determined by the local office when the Payment Center processes your SSDI, your Notice of Award will indicate that your past-due benefits cannot be released until after your SSI eligibility is determined. If the Payment Center and the District Office fail to communicate properly, your payments will not be processed until the error is discovered.
Who is Paid Quickest?
Payments are processed quickest if you only qualify for SSDI. This is because no financial information is needed to determine your benefit amount. Social Security simply plugs your earnings history into the disability formula to determine your monthly rate.
The group that is paid the next quickest are individuals that simply qualify for SSI. Although financial information is needed to determine your benefit amount, as soon as those calculations are performed, your money can be released.
The longest delays occur if you are entitled to both SSDI and SSI, or you are entitled to SSDI and have received Workers Compensation. This is because in both these situations, data must be transferred between two offices before your payments can be processed.
Can I do Anything to Speed-up the Payment Process?
I normally suggest to my clients that they be patient during the payment process. If monthly benefits and past-due payments are not made within 60 days of the decision, I suggest that they contact one of their United States Senators for assistance. Normally a Constituent Representative at the Senator’s office will be able to contact SSA to obtain information about the delay, and find out what can be done to process the benefits.
If an individual is being represented for their Social Security disability claim, it is important that they discuss the payment process with their attorney. Any problems that are encountered during the payment process should be reported to your attorney. If you are unrepresented, it is important that you handle all payment matters calmly with your Social Security representative. The SSA Claims Representative normally cannot release your money directly, but can help identify errors that have occurred. This individual is usually your best ally in receiving benefits as quickly as possible.
This article was written by Steven Butler. Steven is a partner at Linarducci & Butler, PA and his practice is limited to Social Security Disability/SSI claims. Steven offers free initial consultations for Social Security Disability/SSI claims to residents of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. To schedule a consultation with Steven, please use the Linarducci & Butler Contact Form or call 302-613-0707 to schedule an appointment.