Social security award letter

Understanding Your Social Security Award Letter

Nobody likes to wait. If you’re hoping to receive your social security award letter soon, the wait may feel even longer. 

Your social security award letter notifies you about your application’s decision, whether for disability, retirement or some other benefit. In this letter, you’ll find out if it was approved and the details of the award. To help you understand this process better, let’s go through what the award letter and overall application system is like. 

Note: This article is intended to be informational only. Consult with a qualified attorney to understand your specific situation and get legal advice regarding your social security benefits. 

What is a social security award letter?

A social security award letter, also called an award notice, details whether your application was approved and the details of your specific awarded benefits. This letter may refer to a wide range of benefits, but most often involve disability benefits. 

How long does it take to get a social security award letter?

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), your application decision usually takes between 3-5 months. Sometimes applicants may receive notice between 1-3 months, while others may have a wait time of up to eight months. Most applicants start receiving benefits about four months after filing their applications. 

How can I check the status of my application?

Fortunately, you can check the status of your application on the SSA website. You simply have to create a My Social Security account in order to login and check the status of your application.

On your personal dashboard, you’ll be able to get information about when you filed the application, the current status of your claim, as well as other details such as any scheduled hearings. 

What can I do to speed up the process?

Once you apply, there’s no way to speed up the process. The best way to ensure a smooth approval process is to complete the application thoroughly and accurately. 

What can I expect when I open my social security award letter?

In your letter, you’ll receive information about whether you were approved, as well as when your benefits start and any deductions that your awarded benefits may be subject to (typically medical insurance). 

What are some signs that I will be approved?

The approval rate for social security benefits isn’t high. For example, disability applications have an approval rate of 36%. Most of these approvals happen on the first round, so the best way to increase your chances of approval is to file a complete application with no missing documentation. 

If approved, how soon will I receive my social security check?

This will depend on the benefits awarded to you. Disability may take up to six months to start receiving the awarded amount, while other benefits typically start about four months after the application is filed.

How do I appeal my social security award letter?

If you’re denied social security benefits, you have the right to appeal. Just make sure you do this quickly, as you must request an appeal in writing within two months. Online appeals are usually the fastest way to do this, which you can complete directly from your My Social Security account. 

General tips to submit your social security application

1. Get it right the first time 

The surest way to get approved for social security benefits is to take the time on your first application. Submit all necessary paperwork and don’t leave any section blank. Getting it right the first time can save you from unnecessary headaches moving forward. 

2. Over-document when in doubt 

At the same time, you can improve your chances by sending extra documentation that supports your claim. For disability benefits, your doctor could submit a form that details your limitations and helps support your application. When in doubt, add more documentation in order to show reviewers the seriousness of your claim. 

3. Make sure you’re not sending mixed messages

Another common mistake when applying for benefits is sending mixed messages. For instance, if you’re applying for disability benefits, you probably shouldn’t be working full-time as you apply or be applying for unemployment (which suggests you’re willing and able to work). Try to stay consistent so that it’s clear that your claim is real. 

You should consult with an attorney if you have any questions about which benefits you qualify for, and what you should/shouldn’t do as you apply. 

4. Get legal advice early 

Getting an attorney to help you navigate the social security benefit process can be a huge help. Look for this assistance early, instead of when you’re struggling through the appeal system. You have the right to representation during this process and many attorneys won’t charge you unless you receive the requested benefits. 

Ask your SSA office for a list of qualified attorneys and be sure to notify SSA if you receive representation. 

Final takeaway

Ultimately, the journey of receiving social security benefits may take longer than you think. As you undergo this process and wait for your social security award letter, we wish you the best with your application. 

Be sure to check out more information about applying for disability benefits, general qualifications and signs of approval. You can also get in-depth articles about other senior issues, such as a benefits directory and a veterans benefits guide on My Caring Plan. 


  1. Application Status, SSA,
  2. Understanding SSI, SSA,
  3. The Fastest Way to Verify Social Security Benefits, SSA,
  4. What You Should Know Before You Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits, SSA,
  5. Appeal a Decision, SSA,
  6. Your Right to Representation, SSA,

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