Before you receive a Notice of Award, your award must be processed. SSDI awards are processed at either the Office of Disability Operations (“ODO”) in Baltimore, MD, or at one of six regional program service centers. If you are under the age of 54, your SSDI award will be processed at the ODO. If you are age 54 or older, your SSDI award will be processed at a regional program service center. If you live in the western U.S. your SSDI award will be processed at the Western Program Service Center in Richmond, CA. SSI awards, on the other hand, are usually processed at your local SSA office.
Processing an award is complicated and can unfortunately take a long time. Your award amounts can depend on numerous factors. For example, SSA can deduct other money you may have received, such as state disability insurance (“SDI”) or workers’ compensation benefits. Moreover, in SSI cases, the amount of your payment depends on your living situation, namely, whether you are married or single, whether you live alone or with someone else, and whether you have cooking facilities where you live. Your SSI entitlement and amount thereof is also dependent on the existence and amount of other income or assets that you have. Additionally, certain family members may be entitled to benefits based on your disability (these are called “auxiliary benefits”), and these awards must be processed, too. SSA will require all necessary information before issuing a Notice of Award and prior to making any payments. SSA may ask you, prior to issuing a Notice of Award, to provide them with missing information or documents and may even ask you to come in to the local office for an interview.
The long time it takes to start receiving your benefits can be extremely frustrating. Dealing with the local SSA office on SSI payment issues is relatively easy. However, the ODO and the regional program service centers which process SSDI awards are a different story. They do not communicate well. They only contact you when they need something. You can seemingly never talk to a live person over the phone. They do not return phone calls or faxes.