The Complete Guide to Social Security Award Letters

Congratulations! You received a Social Security Award Letter (also known as a Notice of Award). This letter signifies that your application for disability benefits has been approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA). This guide will explain everything you need to know about your SSA Award Letter, including what it contains, how to get a copy, and what to do if you disagree with the information.

Understanding Your Victory

Receiving a Social Security Award Letter is a significant accomplishment. The disability claims process can be lengthy and challenging, so be proud of your perseverance. However, the letter itself can be complex and contain a lot of information. Don’t worry, this guide will break it down for you.

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What Does the Award Letter Include?

The SSA Award Letter details crucial information about your disability benefits eligibility and payments. Here’s a breakdown of the key details you’ll find:

  • Onset Date: This indicates the date the SSA considers you to have become disabled. This may differ from the date you believe your disability began. If there’s a discrepancy, consult your lawyer immediately.
  • Entitlement Date: This is the date you become eligible to receive benefits from Social Security. It’s usually different from your onset date due to SSA’s rules regarding back pay.
  • Yearly Back Pay Amount: If you’re entitled to a significant amount of back pay, the letter will detail the breakdown of your monthly payments for each year. This considers cost-of-living adjustments.
  • Benefit Start Date: The letter provides an estimated date for when your monthly benefits will begin. It’s usually phrased as “on or about” a specific date. Don’t panic if there’s a slight delay, but follow up if you haven’t received benefits after a few weeks.

Where to Find Your Award Letter

The SSA typically sends award letters via mail. However, you can also monitor your application status online through the SSA’s disability information website: To access this information, you’ll need to create an account with the SSA.

  • Replacing a Lost Letter: If you lose your original award letter, you can request a copy by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or visiting your local SSA office.

Why Did I Get Two Award Letters?

Social Security Award Letter: A Complete Guide

Sometimes, you might receive two award letters. This could be because your claim was assessed for both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB or SSDI). While some applicants might not qualify for one program, others may win approval for both.

However, this doesn’t mean you’ll receive double the benefits. The SSA evaluates these claims separately and awards the higher amount between the two.

There might also be instances where you receive back pay from both claims at different times due to varying entitlement dates. This is where it gets tricky. The award letters might not reflect the total back pay you’re entitled to. If you’re unsure about the back pay amount, consult your legal representative for clarification.

Disagreeing with the Award Letter?

If you disagree with any information in your SSA Award Letter, don’t hesitate to seek help. Here’s what you can do:

  • Contact Your Lawyer (if applicable): If you have a legal representative, they can help you understand the award letter and determine the best course of action.
  • Seek Legal Counsel: If you don’t have an attorney, consider seeking one if you plan to appeal the award letter. Appeals have time limits, so act promptly.
  • Review Appeal Rights: The award letter itself should outline your right to appeal any discrepancies. Look for this information carefully and understand the associated time constraints.
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How Long Does it Take to Receive an Award Letter?

The timeframe for receiving an award letter after your disability is determined can vary. Some individuals might be approved shortly after applying, but this is uncommon. Most claimants need to go through appeals before their claim is successful. Here’s a breakdown of the notification process:

  • Finding of Disability: The exact timing of receiving notification that your medical evidence qualifies as a disability can differ based on location and processing personnel.
  • Pre-Award Letter Communication: In some cases, the SSA might send a separate letter acknowledging your disability qualification before your official award letter arrives.
  • Receiving the Award Letter: For many individuals, the award letter might arrive one to three months after the official disability finding is issued. This timeframe is just an estimate, and delays can occur due to backlogs.

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