After SSI benefits are awarded
Did you win SSI benefits at your appeal hearing? Congratulations! Did you expect that the checks would just start arriving? Sorry to burst your bubble, but you’ll still have more appointments, forms, and decisions to deal with. This post will cover what you’ll face in the weeks following the hearing.
Soon after the hearing, the judge will send a Notice of Decision letter to the claimant. In Nathan’s case, the decision was “fully favorable,” but the judge’s decision may also be “partially favorable” – for instance, maybe the judge agreed the claimant is disabled, but disagreed about when the disability started.
(If things hadn’t gone well in the hearing, the letter would state that the judge had ruled against you, and that benefits were denied. If that is the case, you have 60 days to file a Request for Review with the Appeals Council.)
The very helpful website DisabilitySecrets.com discusses more about the alternatives you may be facing at this stage.
After a month went by, Nathan received another letter, saying that he needed to be interviewed by someone at the Social Security office: “…you may be found to be medically disabled by the State Agency for … SSI benefits. To be eligible for SSI payments, it is necessary to conduct an interview with you on [date and time].”
Honestly, I am not sure what this really meant – wasn’t his eligibility established in the hearing?? – nor do I know whether this is unique to how it’s done in California. The letter also said, in bold letters: IT IS IMPORTANT THAT THIS APPOINTMENT BE KEPT OR YOUR APPLICATION MAY BE DENIED. IF WE DO NOT HEAR FROM YOU WITHIN 30 DAYS, YOUR CLAIM WILL BE DENIED. Here’s the tricky part: the interview was scheduled for 5 days after the letter was dated, and there had been a weekend in between. By the time Nathan received the letter and showed it to me on a random visit to our house (“is this anything important?”), the interview was to occur in a few hours! Dear SSA: a little more advanced warning would have been good! I hastily called the number given on the letter, and we were able to set up a phone interview for Nathan the next day. The interviewer from SSA would call Nathan at a specified time.
I wasn’t with Nathan when the interview took place, but told him to call me at work if they needed my input. Nathan ended up calling me after it was over and said it had gone all right. I verified this with a follow-up call to the interviewer. Whew! He said the first monthly check would be arriving in about a month. (Here’s a link for more information about how long it might take in general.)
The man at SSA also told me that the first backpayment check wouldn’t arrive for at least another month. Remember, the claimant will receive benefits amounting to what would have been received if s/he had been awarded benefits at the initial application. Depending on how large the sum is, the backpayments will arrive in one, two, or three installments, about six months apart (larger sums mean more installments).
You’ll now have a couple of decisions about the payments: 1) Should they be received in the mail, or electronically? and 2) Should the young person receive the payments directly, or should someone manage the money for him/her?
As for the first decision, the checks will arrive by mail (a few days before the end of each month) unless you make arrangements with SSA and the bank for electronic transfer. In our case, Nathan received checks by mail for a few months until I set up the electronic transfer.
The second question is a big judgment call. On the one hand, we want our young people to take on as many adult responsibilities as they can handle, don’t we? In our situation, Nathan had a savings account. He hadn’t really needed to keep track of the balance every month, but he’d had the experience of going to the bank to make deposits or withdrawals. Maybe, with our supervision, he could learn more about managing money: to write his own rent check, decide how much to spend on groceries, etc.
However, overriding the goal of independence may be the uncertainty of how a young person who has a bad track record at rational decision-making would actually spend the $600+ to $800+ showing up every month, along with the thousands of dollars in backpayments.
If having the SSI recipient manage the money is Not A Good Idea, the alternative is to find a person willing to be the representative payee. This person will be the one to write the checks, make withdrawals, and file annual statements accounting for how, in very broad terms, the money was spent.
The representative payee could be a parent, another relative, or a family friend. If the beneficiary lives in a board and care facility, the person running the facility might serve as the representative payee. Possibly, a state, local, or community organization can fill this function if the other options are not feasible.
In our case, it made the most sense for me to be Nathan’s representative payee. To apply, I made an appointment at our local SSA office. In addition to proof of identity, etc., I needed to bring Form SSA-787: Physician’s/Medical Officer’s Statement of Patient’s Capability to Manage Benefits. This meant I had to get Nathan’s psychiatrist, Dr. W, to fill the form out during Nathan’s routine appointment. Although at first Dr. W advocated letting Nathan manage his own finances – and he had a point – he relented once I supplied him with a few examples of times Nathan had not stayed within the financial limits we’d set for him.
If you decide to become a representative payee, you’ll need to set up a separate account just for these funds. (The day I set up Nathan’s account, I unexpectedly had to scurry from the credit union to the SSA office and back again; there was some documentation from SSA that the credit union needed before proceeding. Allow some time for that kind of thing!) Once the account is set up, only you will be able to write checks and make withdrawals – not your spouse, not the beneficiary. Also, be aware that some financial institutions may have a policy of not allowing ATM transactions with these types of accounts. Our credit union would not issue an ATM card, so that means I can only withdraw cash from this account by going to a real live teller, just like in the days of yore.
Now that you’ve made these arrangements, are you done with decisions and processes? No! There will be more hoops to jump through in the months to follow. We’ll leave those hoops for another time – for now, breathe a sigh of relief that, thanks to the hard work of you and the people at SSA, the benefits have started arriving!
About janet565I've lived in the Inland Empire of Southern California since 1982. Born and raised in New Jersey, I've also lived in upstate New York and in Oregon. My profession involves maps and geography, which is usually very interesting. My hobbies are pretty boring - none of them involve tigers (or ligers) or jumping out of aircraft - so they do not bear mention here. I hope you find the blog useful, and wish you well....
The purpose of this blog
Climbing The Cinder Cone presents resources that may help young people who learn or think differently. The focus is on situations that "fall through the cracks," where it isn't clear what programs or treatments are appropriate.
The blog mostly addresses topics our family has dealt with (or should have known about). Anyone with experience in these areas is invited to chime in!
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