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Congratulations on winning your Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits as well as your Supplemental Security Income Benefits. So what’s next?

Below is a list of common questions and answers that should help you understand your decision and what you can do to ensure you receive everything you’re entitled to.

What is the difference between the Social Security Disability and SSI Disability programs?
Both programs require that you be disabled; but benefits are calculated differently for the two programs. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal welfare program. To qualify for this program, a person must be found medically disabled, but also have limited assets ($2,000 individual $3,000 per couple). Additionally, the monthly amount of SSI benefits depends on your income from all sources, including the amount of your social security disability benefits. Therefore, the more money you receive from SS disability, the less SSI you will receive. SSI also comes with Medicaid (unless your state has its own version, such as Medi-Cal in California). Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), on the other hand, is similar to an insurance program. Because you or your employer paid your social security taxes, you qualify for this form of insurance.  Under this program, you will be receiving a monthly dollar amount, which is determined by how much you paid into social security.  In addition to money, you will also receive Medicare to help with your medical needs.
Do I have to do anything, such as complete some forms, to get paid?
Yes. Payment of your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will require that you update your financial information at the Social Security Office. You will be contacted by the Social Security Office soon. If your financial situation is not complicated, you may be able to handle this over the telephone.

On the other hand, payment is automatic for your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. If you have children who were under age 18 (or under age 19 and still in high school) at any time after your date of entitlement, it will be necessary to submit an application for them to receive benefits; but your own benefits will be processed automatically.

How long will it take for SSA to pay me?
Your regular monthly checks should start in one to two months (or so). However, it may take several additional months for all of your back pay to be paid. This is because you will first be “overpaid” SSI. The reason for the SSI overpayment is that the Social Security Administration usually calculates your SSI benefits without counting the amount of your social security disability benefits. The SSI “overpayment” then will be deducted from your back benefits check. Don’t worry, the total amount of benefits from both programs will work out to the correct amount. Even if you are not overpaid SSI, the payment center will hold payment of your back benefits to see if you will be overpaid SSI. All of these bureaucratic maneuvers take several months, possibly up to six. You must be patient.
How far back will my benefits go?
Your social security disability benefits will begin on your date of entitlement. Many people ask why social security disability benefits don’t begin on the date the ALJ found that they became disabled. Social security disability benefits never begin on the date one becomes disabled because of the waiting period of five full calendar months. Another rule limits payment of back benefits to 12 months before the date of the application. Therefore, your benefits begin either 12 months before the date of application, or five full months after the date you were found to be disabled, whichever is later. Your social security disability benefits may be subject to the “SSI offset,” that is, where SSA deducts the SSI overpayment mentioned above.

Your SSI benefits work somewhat differently. You won’t be paid SSI benefits prior to the date of your SSI application; but there is not a five month waiting period with SSI. You will be paid SSI from the first of the month after you applied, as long as you were disabled then. Otherwise, you will be paid SSI from the first of the month after you became disabled.

Will I receive notices from SSA explaining my benefits?
Yes. For social security disability benefits, you should receive a Notice of Award and a Benefit Information Notice. The first notice will show the date of entitlement, the amount for all months of back benefits, and the amount withheld for direct payment of attorney’s fees. Usually a second notice will show the total amount of benefits to be paid to you. It will also show the amount of the “SSI offset.” The notices may give you information about your Medicare eligibility. They may also give you some information about when to expect a continuing disability review (CDR). You will also get an SSI notice that shows a monthly breakdown of benefits and a separate notice showing the amount of attorney fees that will be paid out of your SSI benefits, if applicable.
When will I get the notices?
Notices will start arriving in about a month or so. You will receive four or more notices over the next several months. Often people get a check before they receive the notice explaining it.
When will I get my checks?
You may get monthly benefit checks from both programs before you get any back pay. You will get a check for SSI back benefits before you get the check for social security disability back benefits. Unless you have direct deposit, you will get an SSI check that will say SSI on it. (The Social Security disability check will say “SOC SEC FOR INS.”) As a rule, the SSI check for back benefits will come shortly after you get the social security disability notice explaining your social security disability benefits. If your SSI back benefits are greater than three times the monthly federal SSI benefit rate, your SSI back benefits will be paid in up to three installments paid six months apart — unless you’re not going to be eligible for on-going SSI monthly payments, in which case SSA will pay SSI back benefits all at once. After all SSI back benefits are paid, any remaining social security disability back benefits will be paid.
Is there a way to convince SSA not to pay SSI back benefits in installments six months apart?
Yes. Social Security regulations say that the amount of the first and second installment payments may be increased by the amount of outstanding debt for food, clothing, shelter, or medically necessary services, supplies or equipment, or medicine, or current or anticipated expenses in the near future for medically necessary services, supplies or equipment, or medicine, or for the purchase of a home. So if you have debts or you want to buy a home, be sure to tell SSA.
What if I have requested direct deposit?
Direct deposit is the fastest and usually the best way to receive money from the Social Security Administration. Direct deposit works just like getting a check, but you may need to check with your bank frequently to find out if you have received any money from SSA. Sometimes our clients complain that money was sitting in their bank accounts for many days before they found out it was there.
Why would there be a problem if I am overpaid?
If you are paid too much, SSA almost always figures it out eventually. Then, after you have already spent all of the money, it will send you a letter demanding that you repay the overpayment. If you do not have the money to repay the full amount of the overpayment, SSA may threaten to cut off your checks until the overpayment is recouped. Usually, however, it will accept a more reasonable reduction of your monthly checks. However, this is still a hassle and you may have trouble making ends meet during the time that your check is reduced. Under some circumstances it may be possible to get repayment of all or part of the overpayment waived; but this is not something to count on.
Will I receive my regular monthly benefits on the first of each month?
Your regular monthly SSI benefit will come on the first of each month. The SSI check is intended to pay you for the current month. Social security disability checks, on the other hand, are sent out to arrive on the second, third or fourth Wednesday of the month, depending on the date of your birthday. These checks pay benefits for the previous month; for example, the check for January’s benefits will come in February.
Why do you advise a savings account that pays interest quarterly rather than monthly or daily?
If interest is paid quarterly on a bank account and it is $20.00 or less, it is generally not counted as income to be deducted from your SSI benefits. Be sure to keep your interest payment to $20.00 or less, otherwise all of the payment counts.
Won’t a savings account affect my eligibility for SSI?
You will be allowed nine months to spend your checks for back benefits. After that, in order to continue to receive SSI benefits, you won’t be allowed to have more than $2,000 in assets (with some exceptions) if you are single, and $3,000 in assets (with some exceptions) if you are married.
What are the exceptions to the asset limit?
SSA has a list of assets that don’t count against your asset limit. In other words, you can own these things and still be eligible for SSI. Here are the most significant things on the list:
  1. Your home. It can have any value; but if you move out and rent the house to someone else, it becomes an asset and is counted.
  2. Household goods of any value, if they are used on a regular basis or for household maintenance. Thus, furniture, appliances, dishes, cooking utensils, electronic equipment such as a stereo, computer, television, lawn care equipment, etc. do not count as assets.
  3. Personal effects that are ordinarily worn or carried by someone, including a claimant’s own wedding and engagement rings, are not counted as assets. Also not counted are “articles otherwise having an intimate relation to the individual,” such as a grandmother’s diamond.  Even if you never wear your grandmother’s diamond, it will not be counted as an asset because it is a keepsake. On the other hand, if you are a gem collector, the value of your gem collection counts.
  4. Household goods and personal effects required because of your physical condition, such as wheel chairs, hospital beds, etc.
  5. One car of any value will not be counted, if you use the car for your transportation or the transportation of someone in your household.
  6. If life insurance has a face value less than $1,500, its cash surrender value won’t be counted as an asset.
  7. Term insurance, that is, life insurance which does not have any cash surrender value.
  8. Burial insurance.
  9. Burial spaces.
  10. Burial funds up to $1,500, as long as you don’t use the exclusion of $1,500 face value life insurance.

If you are holding anything as an investment, it probably counts as an asset.

If I don’t have a bank account, will I have difficulty cashing my checks?
You may. It is a good idea for you to open a bank account as soon as possible.
Will I be eligible for Title 19?
Yes. Title 19 (Medicaid) eligibility is automatic once you’ve been found eligible for SSI. You will receive a Title 19 card in the mail. Title 19 eligibility should begin three months before SSI eligibility begins, but usually your Title 19 card is just back dated to the date when your SSI began. If you have some significant medical bills from within three months of your date of SSI eligibility and your Title 19 card doesn’t go back far enough, give your attorney a call.
Will I be eligible for Medicare?
Medicare eligibility begins after you have received 24 months of social security disability benefits. Because you are eligible for Title 19, it will work out that the Medicare premium is paid by the state.
What does “the Appeals Council may review the decision on its own motion.” mean?
In a very small number of cases, the Appeals Council in Falls Church, Virginia, which is the body to which appeals from Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decisions go, will decide on its own to take away benefits awarded by the decision. If it is going to do this, the Appeals Council will almost always send you a notice within 60 days of the date of the decision. In an extremely small number of cases the Appeals Council will reverse a decision after the 60 days have run. This is rare, but if it does happen, we will deal with it, even if it means fighting SSA in federal court.
What is a Continuing Disability Review?
SSA is required periodically to review the cases of all people who are receiving disability benefits. Usually cases are reviewed every three years; but some cases are reviewed more often. Sometimes the decision will direct SSA to conduct a review at a certain time. Often the Notice of Award will tell you when to expect a review.
What will I have to do for a Continuing Disability Review?
You will be asked to complete a form about your medical treatment, any vocational training or work, and how your condition has changed since the time you were found eligible for disability benefits.
What if SSA finds that my disability has ceased but I’m still not able to work?
The notice that you will receive from SSA following a Continuing Disability Review (CDR) will explain your appeal rights. Read this notice carefully. Act quickly. If you appeal within ten days of the date you receive the notice, your benefits will continue during your appeal.
Is there anything that I can do now to help ensure my benefits will continue?
The very best thing you can do is to continue seeing your doctor. A lot of people with long-term chronic medical problems stop seeing their doctors because no treatment seems to help. This is a mistake for two reasons. First, it means that when SSA conducts its review, no medical evidence will exist to show that your condition is the same as it was when you were first found disabled. Second, and perhaps even more importantly, doctors recommend that even healthy people have periodic physical examinations after a certain age. This is even more important for people who already have chronic medical problems.
Is SSA going to make it as difficult to keep my benefits as it did to get them in the first place?
No. Few people have their benefits stopped.
Is there anything I can do to make dealing with SSA easier?
You shouldn’t expect as many problems dealing with SSA while receiving benefits as you had trying to get benefits in the first place. Sometimes, though, some people have problems. Here are some things you can do to try to minimize the hassle:
  • Create a folder, and keep all decisions, letters, and notices you receive from SSA in a safe place.
  • Read everything you get from SSA. The booklets that come with award letters and notices are well written and informative.
  • When reading the booklets you receive from SSA, pay special attention to the kind of information you are required to report to the Social Security Administration. Report promptly in writing, and keep a copy with your social security papers.
  • Don’t necessarily believe everything they tell you at the SSA 800 number. If you have an important issue to take up with SSA, sometimes it is better to go to your local Social Security Office.