Award Letter

After your application for Social Security Disability (SSD) has been reviewed and approved by the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Disability Determination Services (DDS) office, you will receive a formal letter informing you of your eligibility to receive disability benefits. This document is known as an “award letter” and will contain the pertinent details of your eligibility and benefit payments, including:

  • The amount of your monthly disability benefit payments
  • The date each month that you can expect to receive your SSD payment
  • The lump-sum amount of “past due” benefits you’ll receive
  • The expected date that your past due benefits will be sent to you

Because disability claims can take a significant period of time to go through the review process with the DDS, most SSD recipients are due retroactive benefit payments at the time they receive their award letter. Any benefits that are past due are paid in a single lump-sum at the commencement of disability.

In addition to detailing past due and monthly benefit payment information, your award letter will also inform you of the process for formally questioning or appealing the determination of the DDS. If you believe you should be eligible for higher monthly payments or if you believe you’re due more retroactive benefit payments, then you can appeal the DDS’s decision.

Your monthly benefits will not be affected by an appeal and you will continue to receive benefits each month in the previously communicated amount until a final decision is made on your appeal. After the appeal is finalized, adjustments may or may not be made to your monthly or retroactive benefits, dependent upon what the appeal uncovers.

Award letters typically arrive within one to three months after claimants are found eligible for SSD benefits. An award letter can arrive sooner or later than this average timeframe. In some instances, a claimant may even see disability benefits direct deposited to his or her account before an award letter even arrives in the mail. This can make the commencement of disability benefit payments a confusing time for a new recipient. Backlogs and delays are common with the SSA; however, an award letter will eventually be processed that informs you of all the basic information of your eligibility and your ongoing benefit payment amounts and schedule.