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How Long Does It Take To Get Social Security After You Apply

Last updated: November 18, 2023

Social Security is an assistance mechanism from the United States federal government that offers monthly payments to qualified disabled individuals, elderly individuals, their wives/husbands, children, and dependants after the recipient's death. While Social Security is most famous for providing retirement benefits, eligible recipients can also receive survivor and disability benefits. 

A spouse or dependent of a deceased employee eligible for Social Security benefits may receive survivor benefits. The Social Security system requires workers to pay into the system for at least ten years before receiving benefits. The number of Americans collecting benefits reached 70.61 million in September 2022. 

The amount of benefits qualified individuals receive on Social Security varies from person to person. It is calculated using their average indexed monthly earnings (AIME) throughout 35 of their top-earning years. 

Read on to learn how Social Security works, how long it takes to get Social Security after applying, the types of Social Security benefits, and how much they pay. If you are struggling with basic living amenities, are disabled, or suffer from a condition listed with the SSA, read our comprehensive overview of SSA Compassionate Allowances.  

How Does Social Security Work?

Social Security can be considered to work just like insurance. Employees' payroll is usually withheld at their place of employment to contribute towards their Social Security benefits. Whenever self-employed workers file their federal tax return, they pay Social Security taxes. 

The maximum number of work credits that can be earned by a worker each year is four. One credit was equivalent to $1,520 in 2022; for the whole year, workers could earn a maximum of four credits, equivalent to $6,040. In 2023, one credit equals $1,640, and workers can earn a maximum of four credits equivalent to $6,560.

These contributions from employees' salaries are deposited in Social Security's two main trust funds, the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund (OASI), from which retired workers receive retirement benefits, and the Disability Insurance Trust Fund (DI), from which disabled workers receive disability benefits. The amount of the funds which are not utilized is retained in the trust funds.

How Long It Takes To Get Social Security 

It takes relatively little time for Social Security to approve your application. Due to many applicants for this government program, you might need to wait nearly six weeks to approve your benefits. It is important to remember that this schedule is relevant only if the entire approval process goes without a hitch. The entire process must be restarted if you mistakenly provide incorrect information on your application. Social Security may take up to five months to approve nonretirement benefits, such as disability benefits.

For individuals considering applying for disability benefits, read our guide on how to apply for disability benefits.

Types and Amounts of Social Security Benefits

Workers who are disabled, retired, or their survivors (if they are deceased) are eligible for Social Security benefits. There are three main types of benefits that Social Security provides. These benefits differ in terms of the types of recipients, the application criteria, and the benefit amounts under each category.

Disability Benefits

Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) are available to workers who can no longer work due to any physical or mental condition that might last for more than one year or lead to the workers' death. You must meet certain income tests to qualify for the SSDI program. 

It is also possible to receive benefits if you are a parent, spouse, or child of a disabled worker. By February 2021, the number of people receiving SSDI benefits was over 8 million, with over 100,000 spouses and nearly 1.4 million children of disabled workers receiving benefits.

Amount Of SSDI Benefits You Can Get

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) allows you to earn a maximum monthly benefit of $3,627 in 2023. Although that's a substantial sum, most people will not receive it. It is estimated that SSDI benefits average about $1,358 per month. As of February 2023, spouses of disabled workers can get an average monthly benefit of $406.31 a month or $4,875.72 a year, and children of disabled workers can get $472.28 per month or $5,667.36 per year.

Retirement Benefits

To be eligible for early retirement benefits, the workers should have worked for at least ten years before age 62 and must have paid their Social Security taxes during that period. Depending on their date of birth, individuals (between 66 and 67 years old) who wait till their Full Retirement Age or FRA can get greater monthly benefits than those who opt for earlier retirement. 

Similarly, individuals who wait till they are 70 years old before they collect their retirement benefits tend to get even greater benefits. Still, those ages over 70 cannot obtain greater benefits.

Additionally, people can also receive benefits for themselves based on the past earnings of their spouses. In divorce cases, an ex-spouse's earnings record can serve as the basis for benefits if their marriage lasts ten years or more. The children of retirees can also receive pension benefits until they reach 18. For disabled children and students, this age limit can be extended. 

Amount Of Retirement Benefits You Can Get

The retirement benefit amount eligible applicants can receive upon retirement depends on their average indexed monthly earnings (AIME) over 35 of their top-earning years. This results in significant differences in retirement amounts. 

According to December 2022 estimates, the average monthly benefit was $1,688.35 or 20,260.20 a year. Each year you delay collecting your benefits between the ages of 62 and 70, you will see an annual increase of 8% in your retirement benefits.

The maximum amount you can get for benefits in 2023 is $2,572 per month or $30,864 per year for retired workers who are 62 years old. The benefit amount for retired workers who are 70 years old is $4,555 per month or $54,660 per year. Social Security benefits also increase annually to keep pace with inflation using cost-of-living adjustments (COLA). There was an increase of 8.7% in the COLA in 2023.

Survivor Benefits

Survivors (including children and spouses) of deceased workers can receive survivor benefits based on the worker's earnings record throughout their life. If a surviving spouse is 60 or more than 60 years old, or 50 or more than 50 years old and disabled, they may qualify for benefits, with the condition that they haven't married anyone after the death of their spouse. Surviving spouses raising a child under 16 or disabled can also receive SSDI benefits.

If a child is under 18 or disabled, they may also qualify for benefits. Adopted children, stepchildren, grandchildren, and stepgrandchildren are also eligible in certain circumstances. The parents of a deceased worker may also be eligible for benefits if they are 62 years or older and were financially dependent on the deceased worker for an amount equivalent to 50% of the worker's income. Moreover, under specific circumstances, surviving spouses and minors may also receive a one-time payment of $255 after the death of an eligible worker.

Approximately 6 million people collected survivor benefits in March 2022. The average monthly benefit in 2023 is $1,704 for spouses of deceased workers and $3,520 for widows/widowers with at least two children.

Social Security combines various federal government programs to provide monthly cash benefits to eligible individuals. The main Social Security programs include disability, survivor, and retirement benefits. 

Old age, retirement, and disability are the top eligibility criteria for determining the benefit amounts. How long does it take to get Social Security after you apply for the type of program you are eligible for? Retirement benefits take approximately six weeks for approval, whereas nonretirement benefits usually take five months or more.

For more information on disability and veteran assistance programs, read the rest of the Disability Help resources. If you have yet to file your disability claim, read our article on useful tips when filing for disability.

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Cheri Hermanson
Cheri leads our team of writers in producing the best quality content there is regarding society and disability, most especially those that helps ease the quality of life for our differently-abled loved ones.
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