Notice of a Decision for a Social Security Disability Case

How you'll be notified about Social Security's decision on your disability benefits depends on in what stage in the application process you are.

If you win your claim for Social Security disability benefits or SSI disability, you will receive notification in writing from the Social Security Administration sometime after the approval has been made.  

Decision at the Initial Application and Reconsideration Stages

Disability applicants who are awarded benefits at the initial claim and reconsideration levels will receive a "Notice of Award" that specifically details the amount of their monthly and past due benefit amounts and when they should receive these checks.

However, many disability applicants first receive a letter that indicates that the applicant has met the medical requirements for disability, and that their claim is being sent back to their local Social Security office to determine whether the applicant is still not working above the SGA level and still meets the nonmedical requirements of SSDI or SSI. The nonmedical requirements are as follows:

  • For SSDI, the nonmedical issues includes whether you have worked long in a job that was required to pay FICA taxes into the Social Security system. (Learn more about SSDI disability.)
  • For SSI, the nonmedical issues are determining your sources of earned and unearned income and the amount you own in countable assets. (Learn more about SSI disability.)

If Social Security finds that you still fulfill the eligibility requirements for SSDI or SSI, it will then send you a Notice of Award.  

If you are denied benefits, you will be sent a notice of denial, which includes information about your right to appeal.

Decision at the Hearing Stage

If a Social Security or SSI disability case is won after a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) has been held, you will receive a "Notice of Decision" letter from the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (previously known as the Office of Hearings & Appeals).  If the Notice of Decision is an approval, it is called a favorable hearing notice, which can be either fully favorable or partially favorable. (Learn about the difference between a fully favorable and partially favorable notice.) Then, some time later, you will receive a "Notice of Award" from the Social Security Administration.

If you are being denied disability benefits after a hearing, you will receive an unfavorable decision notice, which will contain an explanation of the denial, the records that were used to come to a decision, and a list of the impairments that were evaluated. For more information, see our article on Social Security Disability denials.  

The "Notice of Decision - Unfavorable" will also inform you of your rights to appeal to the Appeals Council.

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