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About your benefits

When your payments start

Under the law, your payments cannot begin until you have been disabled for at least five full months. Payments usually start with your sixth month of disability.

When Social Security tells you that you will be receiving disability benefit payments, the notice explains how much your disability benefit will be and when your payments start.

NOTE: If your family members are eligible for benefits based on your work, they will receive a separate notice and booklet.

How long payments continue

Generally, your disability benefits will continue as long as your medical condition has not improved and you cannot work. Benefits will not necessarily continue indefinitely. Because of advances in medical science and rehabilitation techniques, many people with disabilities recover from serious accidents and illnesses.

Your case will be reviewed at regular intervals to make sure you are still disabled. You are responsible for reporting if your medical condition improves, if there is any change in your ability to work or if you return to work.

NOTE:Other changes you need to report are described in What you must report.

If you disagree with a decision made

If you have any questions about your payment amount or any other information Social Security may send you, please contact the agency. If you disagree with a decision made, you have the right to appeal the decision.

Your request must be in writing and delivered to any Social Security office within 60 days of the date you receive the letter containing the decision.

If you still are not satisfied, there are further steps you can take. Ask for Your Right To Question The Decision Made On Your Claim(Publication No. 05-10058).

You have the right to hire an attorney or anyone else to represent you. This does not mean you must have an attorney or other representative, but the agency will work with one if you wish. For more information about getting a representative, ask for Your Right To Representation(Publication No. 05-10075).

When and how your benefits are paid

Social Security benefits are paid each month. Generally, the day on which you receive your benefit depends on the birth date of the person on whose work record you receive benefits. For example, if you receive benefits as a retired or disabled worker, your benefit will be determined by your birth date. If you receive benefits as a spouse, your benefit payment date will be determined by your spouse's birth date.

Direct deposit

If you did not sign up for direct deposit when you filed for disability benefits, please consider doing it now.

Direct deposit is a simple, safe and secure way to automatically receive your benefits. Contact your bank, savings and loan or credit union to help you sign up. Or you can sign up for direct deposit by contacting the agency.

If you do not have an account, you may want to consider an Electronic Transfer Account. This low-cost federally insured account lets you enjoy the safety, security and convenience of automatic payments. You can visit the website at www.eta-find.gov to get information about this program, or to find a bank, savings and loan or credit union near you offering this account.

If you receive your checks by mail

If your check is not delivered on its due date, wait three workdays before reporting the missing check. The most common reason checks are late is because a change of address was not reported.

If your check is ever lost or stolen, contact the agency immediately. Your check can be replaced, but it takes time.

To be safe, you should cash or deposit your check as soon as possible after you receive it. You should not sign your check until you are at the place where you will cash it. If you sign the check ahead of time and lose it, the person who finds it could cash it.

A government check must be cashed within 12 months after the date of the check or it will be void. After a year, if you are still entitled to the payment, the agency will replace the voided check.

Returning benefits not due

If you receive a check that you know is not due, take it to any Social Security office or return it to the U.S. Treasury Department at the address on the check envelope. You should write VOID on the front of the check and enclose a note telling why you are sending the check back. If you have direct deposit and receive a payment you should not have gotten, call or visit your Social Security office. They will tell you how you can return it.

If you knowingly accept payments that are not due you, you may face criminal charges.

Paying taxes on your benefits

Some people who get Social Security have to pay taxes on their benefits. About one-third of current beneficiaries pay taxes on their benefits. You will be affected only if you have substantial income in addition to your Social Security benefits.

  • If you file a federal tax return as an "individual" and your income is more than $25,000, you have to pay taxes.
  • If you file a joint return, you may have to pay taxes if you and your spouse have a combined income that is more than $32,000.
  • If you are married and file a separate return, you will probably pay taxes on your benefits.

For more information, contact the Internal Revenue Service.

How Social Security will contact you

Generally, the agency uses the mail or call you on the phone when contacting you, but sometimes a Social Security representative may come to your home. The representative will show you identification before talking about your benefits. It is a good idea to call the Social Security office to ask if someone was sent to see you before you let the representative into your home.

Cost-of-living adjustments

Each January, your benefits will increase automatically if the cost of living has gone up. For example, if the cost of living has increased by 2 percent, your benefits also will increase by 2 percent. If you receive your benefits by direct deposit, they will notify you in advance of your new benefit amount. If you receive your benefits by check, they will include a notice explaining the cost-of-living adjustment with your check.

When you reach full retirement age

If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same.

If you also receive a reduced widow(er)'s benefit, be sure to contact Social Security when you reach full retirement age so that they can make any necessary adjustment in your benefits.

NOTE:For more information about full retirement age, ask for Retirement Benefits(Publication No. 05-10035).


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