According to the Social Security Administration, 64 million Americans will receive Social Security benefits in 2019. These benefits are the core of our country’s social safety net. Those who depend on their monthly Social Security benefits include retired workers and their dependents, disabled workers and their dependents as well as survivors of deceased workers. Social Security is the major source of income for most elderly people in the United States. Almost 90% of all individuals who are at least 65 years old receive Social Security benefits. These benefits represent at least 50% of the income for the majority of elderly recipients.
If you, like millions of other people, depend on your Social Security check each month; it is important to know how the system works and when you can expect your monthly payments to arrive.
How is my Social Security benefit payment schedule determined?
There are two factors that determine the date that you will receive your Social Security benefit payment each month:
- Your benefit type
- Your date of birth
Type of Benefit
There are 4 main types of benefits administered by the Social Security Administration.
Retirement, Survivors and Disability Income (RSDI) Benefits comprise the first 3 types of benefits. RSDI benefits are commonly known as Social Security benefits. All RSDI benefits follow the same payment schedule.
1. Retirement Benefits
Retirement Benefits are paid to retired workers and their dependents. They are the most common type of Social Security benefit, accounting for 72% of all RSDI benefits paid. To be eligible for retirement benefits, you must be at least 62 years old and you must have worked at least 10 years (40 quarters).
2. Survivors Benefits
Survivors Benefits are paid to the widows, widowers, some divorced spouses and dependents of deceased workers and retirees. Survivors benefits account for 15% of all RSDI benefits paid.
3. Disability Benefits
Disability Benefits are paid to workers who are no longer able to work because of permanent and total disability due to illness or injury. Disability Benefits account for 13% of all RSDI benefits paid.
4. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits are the fourth type of benefit administered by the Social Security Administration. SSI benefits are paid to people who are blind, disabled or at least 65 years old. SSI is a means-tested program, meaning that to be eligible for SSI benefits, you must have limited income and resources. Although they are administered by the Social Security Administration, SSI benefits are not actually Social Security benefits. SSI can be combined with RSDI benefits. Receiving SSI benefits in combination with RSDI benefits will affect the date that you receive your benefits each month.
Date of Birth
Your date of birth will affect the day of the month on which your monthly Social Security benefits are paid. If your eligibility for benefits is derived from another person who meets the work requirement, their date of birth will determine the day of the month you receive your benefits. For example: If you are receiving retirement benefits based upon meeting the minimum work requirements, your payment date is based upon your date of birth. If you are receiving survivors benefits based upon your spouse meeting the minimum work requirement, your payment date is based upon your spouse’s date of birth.
What is the Social Security benefit payment schedule?
SSI (Supplemental Security Income) Benefits
If you receive SSI benefits, the Social Security Administration will deposit your check in your account on the first day of each month.
RSDI (Retirement, Survivors and Disability) Benefits
If you receive RSDI benefits, The Social Security Administration will deposit your check in your account either on the second, third, or fourth Wednesday of each month. The Wednesday you can expect your check depends on your date of birth.
If you were born on the:
- 1st–10th of the month, you can expect your check on the second Wednesday of each month.
- 11th–20th of the month, you can expect your check on the third Wednesday of each month.
- 21st–31st of the month, you can expect your check on the fourth Wednesday of each month.
Both SSI and RSDI Benefits
If you receive SSI benefits combined with RSDI benefits, the Social Security Administration will deposit your check in your account on the third day of each month.
What are the exceptions to the Social Security payment schedule?
As with any set schedule, there are usually some exceptions. This is true with the Social Security benefit payment schedule:
RSDI Benefits Prior to May 1997
If you receive RSDI benefits and you were entitled to those benefits before May 1997, then you can expect your check on the third day of each month. However, you can request the Social Security Administration to change your benefit payment date to the more current schedule that is based on your date of birth.
Saturday or Sunday
If in any month your regularly scheduled benefit payment date falls on a Saturday or Sunday, you can expect your check that month to be deposited on the Friday before your regular payment date. The following the month, you will go back to the regular benefit payment schedule.
Federal Legal Holiday
If in any month your regularly scheduled benefit payment date falls on a Federal legal holiday, you can expect your check that month to be deposited on the first preceding day that is not a Federal legal holiday. The following the month, you will go back to the regular benefit payment schedule.
How soon does my Social Security benefit begin after it is approved?
After your RSDI or SSI benefits have been approved, it can take several months before you see your first benefit payment. The Social Security Administration states that in some cases it can take up to six months from the date your benefits application is approved to receive your first monthly benefit payment. In reality, most cases take less time than six months before monthly payments begin.
The good news is that the Social Security Administration will send a “back-pay” payment to cover the period of time that begins with the month your eligibility for benefits began and ends with the month prior to when your monthly benefit payments began. You can usually expect the back-pay payment to be made one to three months after you receive your first monthly benefit payment.
How do I receive my Social Security benefit?
As of March 1, 2013, the Social Security Administration stopped mailing paper checks for security reasons. Too many paper checks were reported stolen or lost in the mail. Paper checks are no longer an option for receiving your Social Security benefit payments. Currently, you have two options:
1. Direct Deposit
This option will allow the Social Security Administration to deposit your monthly benefit payment through your bank or credit union directly into your account. The payment will be in your account and available for you to use on the day your benefit payment is scheduled. Direct deposit is simple to set up, and it provides a safe and convenient way for you to receive your monthly benefit payment. However, direct deposit requires that you have an open account at a bank or credit union.
2. Direct Express®
If you don’t have an open account in which you can receive direct deposit funds, or if you simply choose not to sign up for the direct deposit option, the Social Security Administration will make your monthly benefit payment by electronically loading funds onto a debit card called a Direct Express® card. Your card can be used like any other debit card to make purchases, pay bills or withdraw cash. It is another safe and convenient option for receiving your benefits. However, you need to be aware that fees may apply to some transactions that you make using your Direct Express® card.
What should I do if my Social Security benefit payment is late?
If you don’t receive your electronic benefit payment on its due date, call the Social Security Administration immediately using their toll-free customer service number: 1-800-772-1213.
What should I do if I receive a Social Security benefit payment that I shouldn’t receive?
If you receive a Social Security benefit payment that you know is not due to you, ask your financial institution to return it to the U.S. Treasury Department. If you use funds from an undue payment, an overpayment will result. Overpayments must be paid back to the Social Security Administration. It is a crime to use funds from a payment that you know you should not have received, and you can be charged for doing it.
How do I report changes of personal information to the Social Security Administration?
To help you avoid overpayments and to keep the Social Security Administration up to date with your current information, you must notify them of the following changes when they occur:
- You change your name – If you legally change your name by marriage, divorce or court order, you must inform the Social Security Administration immediately.
- You move to a new address or change your phone number – If you are planning to move to a new address or change your phone number, you must provide the new address and phone number as soon as you know them. The Social Security Administration must have your current contact information at all times.
- You change your direct deposit account – If you change financial institutions or open a new account for your direct deposit payments, you must inform the Social Security Administration immediately.
- You get married or divorced – Depending on the type of Social Security benefit you receive, your marital status can affect it. Inform the Social Security Administration of any changes as soon as they occur.
- Your estimated earnings change – If you are earning income while you receive Social Security benefits, you must provide the Social Security Administration with an estimate of your earnings for the year. If you realize your estimate was too high or too low, notify the Social Security Administration as soon as possible.
- A dependent for whom you receive benefits moves out of your household – Receiving and using benefits that you receive on behalf of a dependent who no longer lives with you will result in an overpayment. Immediately notify the Social Security Administration when a dependent move out.
Other changes that you should immediately report to the Social Security Administration include:
- If a beneficiary dies
- If you begin receiving a pension from a job for which you did not pay Social Security taxes
- If you begin receiving Railroad Retirement benefits
- If your citizenship or immigration status changes.
- If you adopt a child who is receiving benefits
- If you have a child after you start receiving benefits
- If you have an outstanding felony or arrest warrant
- If you are convicted of a crime
- If you go to jail or prison
- If you leave the United States for longer than 30 days
Most changes can be conveniently reported to the Social Security Administration online or by phone. Changes can also be reported in writing or in person by going to your local Social Security Administration office.
It is important to remember that failure to report changes in a timely manner can result in overpayments. If you intentionally fail to report changes or if you provide false information to the Social Security Administration, you can lose your benefits.
How does the Social Security Administration contact you?
When the Social Security Administration needs to contact you, they will usually send you a written letter or notice by mail. In some cases, they may contact you in person by sending a representative to your home. In rare cases, they may contact you by phone. When they contact you by phone, you will usually know ahead of time.
Unfortunately, there are scammers out there who may try to obtain your personal information by impersonating a Social Security representative and threatening you if you do not comply with their request for information or money. If you ever doubt someone who contacts you and says they are representing the Social Security Administration, call your local office to confirm what they are telling you. You can also call the toll-free customer service line at 800-772-1213 to confirm. Remember, Social Security Administration employees will never ask you for money in exchange for a service.