On approval of a claim, Social Security will issue a Notice of Decision. This letter spells out the findings of the adjudicator or judge who reviewed your medical evidence and found you to be disabled under Social Security guidelines. The Notice of Decision will arrive in the mail; if you call your local Social Security field office to inquire, the clerks will sometimes give you the good news over the phone.
Notice of Award
Following the Notice of Decision is the Notice of Award. This letter spells out the monthly benefit which you will receive, as well as the amount of back benefits Social Security finds you are entitled to. In most cases, the Notice of Award comes a week or two after the Notice of Decision; in some cases, it arrives simultaneously. It all depends on the practices of the particular office where Social Security handled your claim.
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Your monthly benefits begin a month to two months after the date of the decision. The benefit covers the previous month; if you are eligible for benefits in December, for example, the benefit for that month arrives in January. Remember that Social Security imposes a five-month waiting period for benefits after the onset of your disability. If your disability began in July, your benefit eligibility begins in December. In most cases, by the time Social Security reaches a decision, a claimant has been disabled for at least a year.
Back benefits are subject to processing through a single Social Security office, in Baltimore. As such, these payments can take several weeks, even months to arrive, although the average is two to three months. It is normal for monthly benefits to begin before you receive the back benefits; Social Security will also sometimes pay back benefits in several installments, if there is a substantial amount due. After your claim is approved, you must give Social Security instructions on how you want to receive benefits -- either by check or direct deposit (direct deposit is required for disability applications begun after May 1, 2011). In rare cases, claimants receive a direct deposit of their back benefits before Social Security even mails out the claim approval. In other cases, Social Security has the decision reviewed by a Quality Control office, which can hold up payments on approved claims for months.