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Congratulations on winning your Social Security Supplemental Security Income(SSI) Benefits claim. This letter attempts to answer some of the common questions that people have after receiving a favorable decision from the Social Security Administration (SSA). I suggest that you keep it for future reference.

Do I have to do anything, such as visit the Social Security Office or complete forms to get paid?
Yes. Payment of your 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.
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. 
If six months pass from the date of the decision and I am still not paid all of my back benefits, is there anything that can be done to speed up payment?

It is possible that your attorney may be able to do something if you are not paid after 90 days. Be sure to call your attorney to explain that it has been three months and you haven’t been paid. It may be necessary to contact the payment center.

How far back will my benefits go?
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.
How much will my monthly SSI benefits be?
This depends on the amount of your income, marital status and living arrangement. SSA uses complicated formulas to figure out the amount of SSI benefits. It is so complicated, I suggest that we let SSA figure it out first.
Will I receive notices from SSA explaining my benefits?
Yes. For social SSI benefits, you should receive a Notice of Award. This notice will show the Date of Entitlement, the amounts of benefits for all months of back pay, 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. The notices may give you information about your Medicaid/Medi-Cal eligibility. They may also give you some information about when to expect a Continuing Disability Review (CDR).
When will I get my checks?
You may begin getting your monthly benefit check before you get any back pay. Unless you have direct deposit, you will get an SSI check that will say SSI on it. 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, 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.
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.
Should I sign up for direct deposit?
Direct deposit is very convenient and dependable. You can sign up by contacting your local Social Security office. If you don’t sign up before your disability hearing, it might be too late to have your back pay paid by direct deposit because the Social Security Administration may have already sent out your check for back benefits.

There are a couple of problems with direct deposit of back benefits. Often SSA has you sign up for direct deposit when you apply for benefits. If you forget you signed up, you may be looking for a check in the mail when the money has already been deposited to your bank account. Worse yet, if you close the bank account you told Social Security to use for direct deposits, it may take a while to straighten out. If this happens, go to the Social Security office to update your account information.

When I get a check or direct deposit, should I wait before I spend the money?
No. There is no need to wait.
Why would there be a problem if I was 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.
Won’t a savings account affect my eligibility for SSI?
You will be allowed nine months to spend your checks for back pay. 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.

Because I don’t have a bank account, will I have difficulty cashing my checks?
You may. It would be a good idea for you to open a bank account as soon as possible.
Will I be eligible for Medicare/Medi-Cal (Title 19)?
Yes. Title 19 (Medicaid/Medi-Cal) 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, contact SSA.
Will I be eligible for Medicare?
No.
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 almost always will send you a notice within 60 days of the date of the decision.
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. If you appeal within ten days of the date you receive the notice, your benefits will continue during your appeal. So be sure to act quickly.

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 after a certain age periodically have a thorough physical examination. 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. Not at all. Few people have their benefits stopped.