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.

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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. Only if you've appealed your case and have been in front of a judge will you receive a Notice of Decision. Before that stage, you'll receive either a Notice of Award or a Notice of Denial.

Decision at the Initial Application and Reconsideration Stages

If you are awarded benefits at the initial disability claim or reconsideration level (the first level of appeal), you will receive a "Notice of Award" that specifically details the amount of your monthly and past-due benefit amounts and when you 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 non-medical requirements of SSDI or SSI. The non-medical requirements are as follows:

  • For SSDI, the non-medical issues include whether you have worked recently enough in a job that was required to pay FICA taxes into the Social Security system. (Learn more about the non-medical requirements for SSDI.)
  • For SSI, the non-medical issues are determining your earned and unearned income and the amount you own in countable assets. (Learn more about the non-medical requirements for SSI.)

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

If you are denied benefits, you will be sent a Notice of Denial, which will include information about your right to appeal.

Decision at the Hearing Stage

If you win your Social Security or SSI disability case after a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ), you will receive a "Notice of Decision" letter from the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO). (This office was formerly known as the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, or ODAR.)

If the Notice of Decision is an approval, it is called a favorable hearing notice, which can be either fully favorable or partially favorable. Here is a sample fully favorable Notice of Decision. (Learn about the difference between a fully favorable and partially favorable notice.) Then, sometime later, you will receive a "Notice of Award" from the Social Security Administration that details the amount of your monthly check, any past-due benefit amounts you are owed, and when you can expect the money.

If you are 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 your impairments that were evaluated. The "Notice of Decision - Unfavorable" will also inform you of your rights to appeal to the Appeals Council. For more information, see our article on how to read a Social Security disability denial notice.

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