What Happens If I Win?
A claimant can win Social Security benefits at any level of the process:
- initial decision
- appeals council
At the conclusion of a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge rarely speaks from the bench. A claimant should not expect to find out the judge's decision at that time. The judge typically issues a decision within 90 days, and even when the decision is favorable, months may pass before payment of benefits.
Arrival of a Check
When the claimant receives a favorable decision (at any level), it is only the first step toward actually getting a check.
The legal decision arrives, then a "Notice of Award" is sent to a payment processing center. A check may arrive or a direct deposit may be made very quickly, or not for months. Usually the money arrives before the explanatory letter that is supposed to accompany it. All in all, 30-90 days may pass before a check is issued.
Current Monthly Benefits vs. Past Due Benefits
Current monthly benefits represent the claimant's ongoing monthly amount. The amount of these ongoing monthly checks will remain unchanged unless there is a change in the claimant's work status, household, or financial situation.
Claimants receiving monthly benefits may want to consider using direct deposit and/or representative payees.
The claimant may be entitled not only to current ongoing monthly benefits, but also to past due benefits. The calculation of past due benefits for a claimant depends on
- whether they are SSD or SSI benefits,
- when the claimant became disabled, and
- when the claimant applied.
Past due benefits arrive in a lump sum, representing the total benefits that Social Security owes the claimant for months that have already passed. However, there are special considerations that apply to past due benefits and how they are paid.
Offsets and Repayment Obligations
There are several situations in which the amount of a benefit will be reduced due to other benefits the claimant has received or is receiving.
Medical Coverage: Medicare/Medicaid
Twenty-four months after the first SSD benefit month, the claimant will be eligible for Medicare, the same program over-65 retirees have. In the interim, the claimant may have to pay COBRA premiums to maintain employer-provided health insurance coverage.
For more information, see the Government Benefits section of this Web site.