Collecting Social Security Disability Payments After Approval

Learn the when, how much, and how long of Social Security disability payments.

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Gavel and Scales

You have waited many months or years for the news that your claim for Social Security disability has been approved, and you are eager to begin receiving your monthly disability income. The award notice that you will receive in the mail when your benefits are approved will tell you how much your monthly benefit will be and when you will be eligible to begin receiving the monthly payments. 

When Your Benefits Will Be Paid

Social Security makes payments in arrears, which means that when you receive a check, it is for the previous month. The only time this will probably have an impact on you is when you are waiting for your first check to come. Your payment date depends on whether you receive SSI or SSDI. For more information, see our article on payment dates for disability checks

Keep in mind that for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), there is a mandatory five-month waiting period from the date that Social Security determines your disability began (your onset date) to when your monthly payments can start. So if you were disabled in an accident on May 1st, the soonest you would receive a monthly check would be November, because you would not be eligible for a benefit until October. Of course, it usually takes so long to receive an approval that the waiting period is usually over by the time you're approved for benefits.

The Amount of Your Benefits

If you are approved for SSDI, the amount of your disability check will be based on the amount of income you earned prior to your disability and how much you worked in recent years. For more information, see our article on how much SSDI disability pays.

If you are approved for SSI, the amount you receive depends on the state you live in, your living arrangements, and your income. For more information, see our article on how much SSI disability pays.

Direct Deposit

Social Security encourages disability recipients to sign up to have their monthly checks directly deposited into their bank account--this is the safest and quickest way you can receive your monthly payment. In fact, those who applied for disability after May 1, 2011 are required to have direct deposit, or direct express. For more information, see our article on direct deposit for disability.

Every year you will receive a statement from Social Security that shows the amount of benefit you were paid during the previous year.

Social Security Disability Back Payments

Most new beneficiaries are eligible to receive back payments from Social Security at the time their payments begin. This is because the benefit approval process is a lengthy one. For SSDI, your disability onset date could be up to 17 months before your application date, meaning you could receive payments for up to 12 months before your application date (taking into account the five-month waiting period). For SSI, you can't receive benefits before your application date; you will be owed benefits starting the month after the application date (assuming Social Security agrees you were disabled when you applied). For more information, see our section on disability backpay.

Dependents Benefits

If you are awarded SSDI, you may have eligible dependents who can receive benefits as well. Benefits are available to certain dependent family members of SSDI recipients only, including minor children, disabled children, older spouses, ex-spouses, and even dependent parents. For more information, see our article on SSDI benefits for dependent family members.

Overpayments from Social Security

If Social Security determines that you have been erroneously overpaid disability benefits, you are required to refund the overpayment, in most cases. As with other decisions made by Social Security, you have the right to appeal. See our article on disability overpayments for more information.

Taxes on Social Security Disability Benefits

If you have just begun receiving Social Security disability, or you do not receive it yet, you may have questions about whether or not your disability income can be taxed. It is possible that up to 85% of your Social Security disability could be taxed.

If you and your spouse have a combined income of more than $44,000 and you file jointly, you will likely pay taxes on 85% of your disability benefits. 

If you and your spouse have a combined income between $32,000 and $44,000, you will likely pay taxes on 50% of your disability benefits.

If you file as an individual, you will pay taxes on 85% of your benefits if your income is more than $34,000 and will pay taxes on 50% of your benefits if your income is between $25,000 and $34,000.

For more information, see our article on whether Social Security disability benefits are taxable.

How Long Will My Benefits Last?

Your disability benefits may not last forever, unless you are permanently disabled and your medical condition never improves. If your condition improves and you are able to return to work, your benefits will end. Social Security periodically re-evaluates your medical condition during continuing disability reviews. In addition, for SSI, Social Security will assess whether you are earning too much income during periodic redeterminations. For the details, see our article on when your disability benefits will end.

Learn more about your disability benefits.

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