The application process was long and difficult, but you have finally received your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) approval. Understandably, your next question is, “When will I get my first payment?” We explain when payments will start, how much you will get, and how long they will continue.
When Disability Payments Will Start
Social Security disability benefits are available to people who have paid into the system through years of work and suffer an illness or injury that will prevent them from working for at least a year. Payments are supposed to begin in the sixth full month after the onset of disability date, but because the application approval process can take longer than that, people often don’t receive their first payment until much later. Application wait times vary according to the backlog in the office you are applying to, but some general guidelines include the following:
- You will wait an average of 30-90 days for a decision on your initial application.
- If you are denied, you must file an appeal and wait for an average of 60 days for a decision on your appeal.
- If your appeal is denied, the average wait time for an administrative law judge review is over 400 days.
In a worst-case scenario, two years could pass between the date of your disability onset and your first SSDI payment. However, most people do not have to wait that long. Once you receive your approval letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA), you should receive your first payment within a month or two.
Waiting Period and Back Pay
The SSA has a mandatory five-month waiting period for most SSDI recipients. No matter when you apply for SSDI or how long the approval process takes, you should receive payments from the sixth month after your onset of disability date to the present and continue receiving them for as long as you are disabled. For example, if your onset of disability date was June 17, 2015, you would be eligible to receive your first payment beginning in December of 2015. If, after being denied and filing an appeal, you are not approved until July of 2016, you will receive back pay from December of 2015 on. This back pay will be given to you as a lump sum if it is a small amount or split into three payments distributed six months apart if it is more than a couple of thousand dollars. Your regular payments will begin the month after the back benefits are paid.
How Much Will Your Payments Be?
The amount of your monthly disability payment will depend on your lifetime average earnings, but the average SSDI payout is $1,171 per month in 2017. Some people will get less than this and others will get more. The maximum possible SSDI payout in 2017 is $2,687. Again, you may also be owed a lump-sum or three installments of back pay.
How the SSA Makes Payments
Once upon a time, disability recipients received a paper check in the mail every month. The date the check was mailed was based on the recipient’s birthday. The Social Security Administration (SSA) now only pays benefits electronically through direct deposit into the recipient’s bank account or by crediting a debit card. Payments are made on Wednesdays and are based on the recipient’s birthday as follows:
- If your birthdate is on the 1st-10th of the month, you will be paid on the 2nd Wednesday.
- If your birthdate is on the 11th-20th of the month, you will be paid on the 3rd Wednesday.
- If your birthdate is on the 21st-31st of the month, you will be paid on the 4th Wednesday.
Because debit cards can be lost and some transactions may require a fee, we recommend using the direct deposit method.
A Few Other Considerations
You may be eligible for various healthcare programs while you are receiving disability and you will automatically qualify for Medicare after receiving benefits for 24 months. If the SSA overpays you, they will figure it out and you will have to pay them back. Finally, if your income exceeds $25,000 a year ($32,000 for couples), you will have to pay income tax on a portion of your benefits.
A New Mexico SSDI Attorney Can Be a Lifeline
From speeding up the approval process to ensuring that your benefits continue for as long as you are eligible, working with a SSDI attorney from Keller & Keller can save you a lot of time and trouble. Contact us before submitting your initial application and we will be with you every step of the way.