So, a judge said you are disabled. Is it time to relax and stop worrying? Maybe not. Far too many of my clients discover that they are not getting their money even though Social Security says they are disabled. What explains this?
There Are Many Reasons Why Your Benefits Could Get Delayed
Once Social Security agrees that you are disabled, they still have to do a number of calculations to figure out what they are going to pay. These calculations include your past-due benefits and what Social Security is going to pay you on a monthly basis. As with so much else,a lot depends on what disability programs you qualified for. The two main disability programs are SSDI and SSI. If you qualify for both, Social Security has to figure out which program is going to pay what amount. This is because SSDI and SSI have different funding sources. SSDI is part of the Social Security trust fund. SSI is a general obligation of the United States Government. So, even though all of your money is coming from Social Security, there are two different places that can fund your benefits.
In truth, I have no idea how Social Security figures out who is going to pay what for those disabled persons who qualify for SSDI and SSI. I have read hundreds of benefit explanation letters. If there is some logic to what Social Security does, I failed to grasp it. One thing I do know, however, is that if Social Security has to decide who is going to pay what portion of your benefits, it may delay you getting paid.
It Could Be Nobody Is Even Working On Your File
This is only one way in which Social Security can delay paying you benefits. Social Security could also get hung up on the issue of whether you have outside income, other benefits, or assets that can reduce your monthly benefits. On an even more basic level, your case might have simply fallen into the cracks and nobody is working on it.
So, what to do if you do not get your back benefits or your monthly check? Sadly, there is not a lot you can do. One hopeful sign is if Social Security has paid anything on your claim. If you have gotten even one check, it means you are in the system somewhere.
You can call Social Security to inquire. That, however, is likely to be a waste of time. In my experience, many Social Security workers never call back. I have left messages for some of them ten days in a row without a response. If you are going to call, make sure you call your local office. Never call Social Security's national number (800-772-1213.) The people who answer those calls will tell you absolutely anything to get you off the line. You would get better information from your cat.
Your Lawyer Can't Do Much To Help
You could call your lawyer and complain. But, your lawyer has no effective way to make Social Security act faster. Clients seem to think that lawyers have some power over Social Security. We do not. I have waited to get paid my fees in cases for well more than a year. If I had some way to get Social Security to pay up, I would be using it every day.
Wake Up Your Congress Member
One effective method to get Social Security's attention it to contact your member of Congress and ask him or her to inquire on your behalf. Social Security will ignore you and me until the end of days. But, they always respond to Congressional inquiries. Most of these responses are bland nonsense that equates to "we're working on it." But, just the fact that your member of Congress wrote to Social Security might be enough to nudge whomever is sitting on your file to do something.
Another option is to contact the Social Security public affairs office for your region. These people are supposed to intercede on your behalf, much like your member of Congress. As with a Congressional inquiry, this could be enough to get somebody somewhere motivated to work on your claim.
A Massive Bureaucracy
Social Security is a massive bureaucracy staffed by people who really don't care if you get your money. If you keep that in mind, it might help to understand why you have not been paid. It won't, however, reduce your frustration. In my experience, Social Security always ends up paying what they owe. But getting to that point can be a very slow process.
If anyone has had any success in getting Social Security to pay when they are supposed to pay, let me know.