Toggle High Contrast Toggle Large Font Size
Prev Next

Effectuation of Disability Benefits

February 29, 2024

The process of adjudicating an application for disability benefits is not complete once a favorable decision has been made. Many additional steps must occur between a favorable decision and the actual payment. These actions, from award to deposit of benefits, are called “effectuation.” Effectuation is little studied both in the Social Security context and in the broader subject of how government works.

This report provides an overview of effectuation that highlights how the process can differ depending on the benefits claimed, the stage of appeal at which the claim was awarded, and other factors. The report analyzes a data set from a large national firm of claimants’ representatives that shows that the time SSA takes to effectuate a disability award increased over the past decade.

  • Average effectuation times increased over the past decade.
  • Nearly 5% of claims in the data set had effectuation times greater than 300 days.
  • Most DI awards are still effectuated within a week of the decision, while the median for SSI awards grew from 20 days in 2014 to 77 days in early 2023. However, some cases took far longer to effectuate for both types of benefits.
  • Claims awarded at the initial or reconsideration levels had lower average effectuation times than those awarded by Administrative Law Judges.

The Board recommends changes SSA could make to its systems, policies, and operations to improve the speed and accuracy of effectuation. The Board also recommends that Congress direct SSA to pay interest on past-due benefits when there are delays in effectuation.