If you've applied for Social Security disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will send you a written notice once a decision has been made on your claim. What kind of letter you'll get will depend on several factors, such as:
Whether you're waiting for a decision on your initial SSDI or SSI disability claim or an appeal, Social Security will always send you a written notice of the outcome. After your initial disability claim is decided, you'll get either a "Notice of Award" or a "Notice of Denial." If you've appealed your case and have been in front of a judge, you'll receive a "Notice of Decision."
Whether or not you win your initial disability claim, Social Security will notify you in writing. You'll receive the same type of notification letter after an initial determination and after a "reconsideration" (the first level of appeal).
If you're awarded benefits at the initial disability claim or reconsideration level (the first level of appeal), you'll receive a "Notice of Award." The letter will explain your benefits, including:
If your benefits are denied, you'll receive a "Notice of Denial," which will include information about the following:
Social Security might send a letter saying you've met the medical requirements for disability but that your claim is being sent back to your local Social Security office to determine if you still meet the non-medical requirements. If you get a notice like this, you might need to answer some questions to verify your eligibility at what's called a "Pre-Effectuation Review Contact" or PERC interview.
The non-medical requirements for Social Security disability benefits that might need to be verified include the following:
If Social Security finds that you still fulfill the eligibility requirements for SSDI and/or SSI after this review, the SSA will then send you a Notice of Award.
(Learn more about the non-medical requirements for SSDI and SSI.)
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.)
After waiting a year or more to have your hearing before the administrative law judge, you'll no doubt be anxious to learn the judge's decision. But you won't know whether or not you've won your appeal immediately after your disability hearing. How long it takes for a decision on your appeal will vary from hearing office to hearing office and from judge to judge due in part to differences in caseloads.
You could receive a Notice of Decision in as little as 30 days, or it could take a few months. The average wait time is around eight weeks. You can check the status of your appeal online by signing into your "my Social Security" account.
If the Notice of Decision says you're disability benefits have been approved, it's called a favorable hearing notice. The judge's decision could be fully favorable or partially favorable.
A partially favorable decision means the ALJ agrees that you qualify for disability benefits but disagrees about when you became disabled. This will likely affect your back pay and retroactive benefits.
With a fully favorable decision, the ALJ agrees that:
Here's a sample of a fully favorable Notice of Decision.
After you get the decision notice, Social Security will send you a "Notice of Award." This is the letter that tells you how much your benefits will be and when you can expect the money.
If the ALJ denies your disability benefits after a hearing, you'll receive an unfavorable decision notice. This notice will contain the following information:
The "Notice of Decision – Unfavorable" will also inform you of your right to appeal and tell you how to request an Appeals Council review.
(Learn more about what happens after your disability hearing.)
Updated January 20, 2023
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