Social Security award letters are issued for all types of Social Security benefits. This includes retirement benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, Social Security Disability benefits, and Medicare benefits. While the SSA sends an award letter upon approval of all types of benefits, the term is most commonly used when referring to SSDI benefits. So, what is this letter and what does it contain? More importantly, when do you need one and how can you get it? We’ll discuss all that in detail in this article, so keep reading for your full guide to Social Security award letters.
What Is A Social Security Award Letter?
You already know how Social Security works – you apply for benefits and get approved if you qualify. A Social Security award letter is a statement issued by the Social Security Administration upon your approval for benefits. This letter shows confirmation that you will begin receiving benefits, and it can be used to present to lenders as proof of income or proof of benefits. You might also hear this letter referred to as a benefit verification letter. These two documents are essentially the same thing.
It can take some time to receive this letter after you initially apply for Social Security benefits. Even though you have been approved for benefits, it can take some time before you receive your award letter. It can take anywhere from 30-90 days to receive your letter even after your application for benefits has been approved. So, be aware that you might have to be patient when waiting to get a benefit verification letter.
This letter will spell out many things about the benefits you will be receiving. We will dive into this in more detail later in the article, but some of the things the letter will contain include your benefit amount, monthly pay date, whether your benefits are taxable, and any back pay that might be owed. So, just why do you need a Social Security award letter?
What Is The Purpose Of A Social Security Award Letter?
You may hear this document called many different things by different organizations, but you should know that they are all the same. If you hear the words budget letter, benefits letter, Social Security proof of income letter, income verification letter, award letter, or Social Security benefit verification letter – all these terms are referencing the same document. There are several occasions when you might need this document. We will discuss a few of those now.
First, if you are applying for a mortgage or other type of loan, you will need to show this letter as proof of income. Your lender will request a copy of your letter to prove how much money you receive each month. In addition, if you apply for other types of housing based on certain income limitations, then this letter will help prove whether you meet the eligibility requirements. There may be instances where you are required to present this letter to show proof of your Medicare benefits for health insurance purposes.
Lastly, the award letter can be used to prove that you do not currently receive SS benefits, that you have applied for benefits, or that you have never received any Social Security benefits. The occasion for needing to prove each of these items might differ, but your Social Security award letter can be used to prove all three.
What’s Typically Included In A Social Security Award Letter?
The award letter follows a standard format, and there are several key pieces of information contained within the letter. When you receive your letter, make sure to check over each piece of information to confirm its accuracy. If you disagree with anything, there are steps you can take to appeal the information. Here is what you should find within your award letter.
1. Taxability Of Your Benefits
Your letter will tell you whether you will pay taxes on your benefits. Note that SSI payments are never taxable because they are designed to help people with extremely limited income and resources. Your SSDI or retirement benefits are usually below the income limits requiring taxation, although in some cases, they are high enough to require paying income tax on a portion of your benefits. You should also note that large lump sums of back pay can drive up your income and require you to pay taxes on your benefits in that calendar year.
2. Back Pay Dates
If you are owed back pay, then the dates you will receive these payments will be listed in the award letter. With SSDI benefits, your back pay is typically paid as a single lump sum within a couple of months of approval. However, with SSI benefits, your back pay is usually split between three monthly payments. The first two payments cannot be larger than three times your monthly award, but there is no limit on the third back pay payment. Your SSI award letter will show the upcoming date of each of these payments.
3. Back Pay Amounts
Similar to the item above, if you are entitled to any back pay as part of your award, then your letter will list the amount that you are going to receive. The amount that you receive in back pay depends on how long it took to process your application. For instance, if you became disabled and qualified for benefits but it took 18 months to finally get approved, then you could receive back pay for that 18 month period you spent waiting for the approval. This can apply to both SSI and SSDI benefits. You should know that you need a bank account to receive you back pay as the SSA only pays these benefits through direct deposit today.
4. Amounts Owed
This item shows any amount that you owe to your representative who helped you get approved for the benefits or who might help you manage your benefits. This is typically an attorney who helped handle the hearing for your SSDI benefit approval. Your Social Security benefit letter will show the amount that representative is owed as well as the name of the representative. Typically, the SSA will automatically send the payee the amount they are owed and deduct that amount from your back pay lump sum.
5. Monthly Payment Dates
Not everyone who receives Social Security benefits is paid on the same day. The method that you choose to receive your benefits can also have an effect on your monthly payment date. Whether you choose direct deposit or an SSA Direct Express debit card can make a difference in your pay date. Make sure that you note your pay date upon receiving your disability award letter so that you can properly budget for your housing payments and other bills during the month.
6. Benefit Amounts
This is one of the most important pieces of information in your award letter. This shows you how much Social Security will pay you each month. The SSA calculates this amount by determining your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings and performing some fairly complex calculations to arrive at your Primary Insurance Amount. For regular retiree benefits, this calculation is a little different. SSA does adjust these amounts for inflation, so you will need to get an updated copy of your award letter when that occurs.
How To Get A Copy Of Your Social Security Award Letter
You should get a copy of your letter in the mail in 30-90 days after approval of your benefits. However, if you need another copy, you can easily use your online account to obtain one. Simply visit www.socialsecurity.gov and register for a My Social Security account. You can use your Social Security number to sign up and gain access to many useful tools and resources. Once you are registered with Social Security online services and log into your account, you can simply print a proof of award letter directly from your account.
If you do not have access to a computer or do not feel comfortable accessing this information online, you can visit your local Social Security office to obtain a copy of your letter. In addition, you can call the SSA at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778) and request a copy of your letter. They can mail you another copy that you should receive within a couple of weeks.
What If You Disagree With Your Award Letter
If you disagree with anything in your letter, you must take action right away. You only have 60 days to dispute the information contained in your letter. You must file an appeal within this 60 day time period or you waive your right to contest the SSA’s findings. After you file your initial appeal, the SSA will issue you a re-determination. Upon receiving this new information, you can still contest it if you feel necessary.
Again, you will have 60 days to file your appeal. But, this time you will be requesting a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. You can argue your case and present evidence showing why you think the information found by SSA is incorrect. The judge will then issue a ruling based on the facts and evidence presented.
A Social Security award letter is an extremely important document for anyone receiving any type of Social Security benefits. This letter contains important information like your benefit amount, back pay amount, payment dates, and whether your benefits will be taxable. You will need to use this letter to apply for housing assistance, get a mortgage, or many other financial transactions. Should you need a copy, it is quite easy to request one online through your My Social Security account. Now that you know everything about award letters, you will be ready the next time you need to use yours.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get a Social Security award letter online?
Yes, you can! Once your Social Security award letter has been issued, you can easily get a copy through your online Social Security account. You simply need to access the MyAccount section of the SSA website, and you can easily print a copy of your letter right away.
How long does it take to get an award letter from Social Security?
The answer to this depends on a few factors, particularly what type of benefits you are applying for. For retirement benefits, you could have your award letter in as few as 30-60 days. However, it can take months to receive your letter when applying for disability benefits. You should not expect to receive it any sooner than 4 months after your application, although it can take over a year in some cases. Once you are approved for benefits, you should receive your letter within 90 days.
How can I dispute a Social Security award letter?
You will need to dispute your letter in writing within 60 days of the date of the letter. Once the SSA responds to your dispute, you can appeal a second time if you are still not happy with the decision. The second appeal will require a hearing in front of an administrative law judge where you will present evidence to support your case. The judge will make a final ruling on the matter based on the facts and evidence that you present.