Why is My Social Security Taking So Long?

In this article we are going to take a look at the Social Security system and help to determine why Social Security may be taking a while to process a claim.

What Is the Social Security Administration?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is an independent government agency that administers social security. It is an insurance program that consists of retirement, disability and survivor benefits. In order to qualify for these benefits most workers pay into the system through Social Security taxes.

The head offices of the Social Security agency are located in Woodlawn, Maryland and are referred to as the Central Office. There are tens of thousands of workers employed by the Social Security agency and it is the largest government program in the United States.

It is estimated that by the end of the 2022 fiscal year the agency will have paid out $1.2 trillion in benefits to 66 million citizens and legal residents of the United States. An additional $61 billion is expected in SSI benefits and $7.5 million to low-income individuals.

This government agency is a vital part of the country's economy and without it millions of already struggling Americans would have nothing. It is a program that many have paid into for decades in preparation for retirement and as an insurance policy against sudden disability.

History of the Social Security Agency

On August 14th 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law as part of his New Deal initiative. This led to the creation of the Social Security Board (SSB), a presidentially appointed group of three executives tasked with overseeing the Social Security program.

With zero budget, staff or even furniture the SSB finally obtained funding from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. It was on October 14th 1936 that the first Social Security office opened its doors in Austin, Texas.

In January of 1937 Social Security taxes were first collected. Just a few years later the first Social Security check was issued to Ida Mary Fuller of Battleboro, Vermont. Ida’s check was dated January 31st 1940 and she received $22.54.

The SSB in 1939 merged with the U.S. Public Health Service, the Civilian Conservation Corp and other government agencies to become the Federal Security Agency. In 1846 under President Harry S. Truman the SSB was named the Social Security Administration SSA.

In 1953 the Federal Security Agency was dismantled and the SSA was placed under the banner of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Finally in 1994 President Bill Clinton made the Social Security Administration an independent body once again.

Retirement, Survivors and Disability Benefits

The main three benefits through Social Security follow a similar payment pattern based on the birthdate of the recipient of said benefits.

Retirement Benefits

Retirement benefits from Social Security are earned through the payment of taxes taken from an individual's paycheck throughout their working life. A minimum of 40 credits are required to qualify for full retirement which equates to around 10 years of full time employment.

Social Security Disability Insurance

This program was created to take care of tax paying citizens or legal residents who have contributed to Social Security through the payment of taxes should they become unable to work any longer. This generally kicks in prior to retirement age and does so because an individual has become unable to work due to a physical or mental disability.

Survivors Benefits

This is an important aspect of Social Security as it is designed to take care of dependents of beneficiaries who have passed away. This usually means either the spouse or minor children of the deceased individual who was eligible for a monthly benefit. There are some other dependents who may qualify for survivors payments but this may be on a case by case basis.

Which Dates Do Retirement, Survivors and Disability Payments Get Paid?

These three programs are consistent when it comes to payments, supplying benefits monthly but not on the same day for everyone. Your payment date for these types of benefits will usually be on a Wednesday. It will be based on the beneficiary's birthday as shown below:

  • Born 1st – 10th of the month: payment is the second Wednesday of the month
  • Born 11th – 20th of the month: payment is the third Wednesday of the month
  • Born 21st – 31st of the month: payment is the fourth Wednesday of the month

It should be noted that in survivors' benefits the date of payment reflects the birth date of the deceased individual whose benefits are being given to the dependent. It is not based on the birth date of the recipient of the survivors' benefit

There are certain circumstances under which payments will come on the 3rd of the month and not based on the birth date of the recipient these are:

  • The benefits were first filed for before May 1st, 1997
  • The beneficiary also receives supplemental security income (SSI) payments
  • Medicare premiums are paid for by the state in which the beneficiary lives
  • The beneficiary no longer lives in the United States

If the normal payment date of these benefits fall on a federal holiday then the payment will shift to the first weekday prior to that holiday.

What Is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

The Supplemental Security Income program provides cash payments to disabled adults, disabled children and seniors over 65 years old. It is a means-tested program meaning that eligibility is dependent on the applicant's income.

This program is open to citizens or nationals of the United States and unlike SSDI you do not need to have a history of paying Social Security taxes. This is because individuals who apply may never have worked due to their disabilities or some other reason.

This was a system that was created to replace federal-state adult assistance programs. These programs served the same purpose but were state specific. As these original state programs were inconsistent in their eligibility requirements they received a great deal of criticism.

When Do SSI Payments Come?

According to the Social Security Administration SSI benefits are paid on the 1st of the month, every month. This is true unless the 1st happens to fall on a weekend in which case the Friday prior to the 1st becomes the new date. So for example if November 1st falls on a Sunday then the SSI payment for November will be paid Friday the 30th of October instead.

What Can Delay Social Security?

Typically an application for retirement benefits takes around six weeks while applications for SSDI and SSI might take three to five months. Sometimes however things can take longer than this which obviously can be frustrating. In this section we will look at some of the reasons Social Security benefits may take longer to approve.

The Social Security Administration Is Short Staffed

Although Social Security is adequately funded for supplying benefits to those who need them their staffing budget is somewhat underfunded as of 2023 and will likely remain so. This can cause delays as it requires the hard work of SSA staff to investigate and approve claims for benefits.

Missing Information on Application Forms

Social Security tries to keep their application process as simple as possible but it is still the job of the applicant to make sure they fill out forms correctly and legibly. You may experience delays if the form is incomplete and the SSA has to reach out for the information they need.

Missing Documents and Incorrect Information

Depending on which benefits are being applied for there will likely be a need for documentation and accurate reporting of income and assets. It is vital to supply all the right documents and to be honest regarding financial means.

The SSA in the case of disability related claims will begin an investigation meaning that if they find information supplied is inaccurate this can slow up the process.

Complicated Work History

Retirement and SSDI benefits are based on Social Security tax contributions of the applicant. If the recorded work history of the applicant is complicated this can mean it will take longer to determine eligibility. It is also possible that during a person's work history an employer did not report correctly so it is always wise to track your own work history so you can assist Social Security in clearing up any confusion.

Disability Determination

When applying for disability benefits such as SSDI and SSI the Social Security Administration requires that the condition can be adequately proven. This will take medical records, doctors reports and perhaps a medical assessment.

This is a process that can take time and initially applicants may be denied and may have to appeal or even take the SSA to court to prove their disability. They do make this purposely challenging in an effort to weed out fraudsters who would claim benefits they are not entitled to.

Final Thoughts

Social Security can be a long process so patience is going to be needed. The key to a quick approval is being organized, supplying all relevant information/documents and telling the truth. The easier you make it for Social Security to do their job the quicker they can start helping you.

Reference SSA Locator

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  • "Why is My Social Security Taking So Long?". SSA Locator. Accessed on July 22, 2024. https://ssalocator.com/blog/why-is-my-social-security-taking-so-long/.

  • "Why is My Social Security Taking So Long?". SSA Locator, https://ssalocator.com/blog/why-is-my-social-security-taking-so-long/. Accessed 22 July, 2024

  • Why is My Social Security Taking So Long?. SSA Locator. Retrieved from https://ssalocator.com/blog/why-is-my-social-security-taking-so-long/.