What Is a Social Security Award Letter?

A Social Security award letter is the document that is used to notify you that your application for Social Security benefits has been approved and you will receive payments. The Social Security Administration also issues another type of document, a benefit verification letter, which includes more details about your benefit and can serve as proof of your income from Social Security.

A Social Security award letter:

— Identifies that you will begin to receive benefits.

— Lays out the next steps to take to receive benefits.

— Is an important document to keep in your records.

— Can be used later to show you are eligible for benefits.

Here’s a look at when you might receive a Social Security award letter and how to get the document.

[READ: How Much You Will Get From Social Security.]

What Is a Social Security Award Letter?

The Social Security Administration issues Social Security award letters to people who have applied for benefits after their application has been approved. “Award letters are official documents that show information regarding your qualifications to receive a certain amount of money,” says Joseph Morrison, a senior associate attorney at Mullen & Mullen in Dallas.

An award letter can be used to prove that you are eligible for benefits. “A Social Security award letter helps a person to better understand their entitlements, and what steps they have to take to claim those benefits,” Morrison says. “Once it has been received by you, it will act as a guide helping you in making the right choices to proceed further with the process of getting your benefits.”

[Read: Social Security Changes Coming in 2022.]

How to Get a Social Security Award Letter

The first step involves applying for Social Security benefits. You may be able to fill out an application online, call to speak to a representative or go in person at your local Social Security office.

After you apply for benefits, you can expect a response to let you know if your application is approved. “The award letter is most commonly associated with disability claims, though they technically are sent out for all types of benefit applications,” says Ben Michael, an attorney at Michael & Associates in Austin, Texas. If you are not awarded benefits, you might be able to appeal the decision.

Once you are receiving benefits, “there is another version of this document that is sent out in specific cases,” says Nicole Thelin, director of Low Income Relief in Provo, Utah. “It is known as a benefits verification letter.” The document might also be called a budget letter, a benefits letter, a proof of income letter or a proof of award letter.

A benefits verification letter could be required for certain situations. “Because it is an official government document, it can be used as proof of income for financial and legal issues,” Thelin says. You might need a benefits verification letter to apply for housing, a loan or for other financial transactions. You can get a benefit verification letter by going online to your my Social Security account. If you don’t have an account, you can create one. After you log in, select “replacement documents” on the right side of the screen and then click on “get a benefit verification letter.” You should be able to quickly view and print your letter.

[See: 10 Ways to Increase Your Social Security Payments.]

When Do You Receive a Social Security Award Letter?

There are different types of Social Security benefits available, and the type of letter you get will depend on your application. Social Security issues benefits in the following categories:

Retirement. Individuals who work and pay into the Social Security system are eligible to receive benefits once they meet the criteria, including enough work credits to qualify. Retirees can apply for benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. Signing up for benefits before full retirement age could result in reduced benefits for a temporary period. Many Americans reach their full retirement age when they turn 66 years old.

Disabled individuals. Those who have worked and paid into the Social Security system, and then become disabled, may qualify to receive disability benefits. These payments help cover the loss of income due to the individual’s health condition and inability to work. Disability benefits may also help support the family of a disabled person.

Survivors. Widows, widowers and dependents of eligible workers may be able to receive survivors benefits. These paychecks are designed to support family members, including young children, when a working person passes away.

Medicare. Individuals who are 65 or older may be able to participate in this health insurance program. Those who are younger than 65 may qualify in certain circumstances, such as having a disability or being diagnosed with permanent kidney failure.

Supplemental Security Income. This program helps support individuals who are 65 or older and have limited income and resources. Those with disabilities who have low incomes may also qualify for these payments.

If you are eligible for benefits, the award letter will confirm that you are able to receive payments from Social Security. “After the individual receives their award letter, they will get their first monthly check typically within 30 to 90 days,” Michael says.

More from U.S. News

What Is a Social Security Statement? And Why You Should Be Checking It

The Social Security Retirement Age Increases to 67 in 2022

10 Strategies to Maximize Social Security

What Is a Social Security Award Letter? originally appeared on usnews.com

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