According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), about 71 million Americans received Social Security benefits in July 2023. With about 20 percent of the country receiving benefits, these checks are a lifeline for a large portion of the population. However, Social Security checks may not always be delivered on time.

Your Social Security benefit might be late due to a few circumstances. Often, those delays won’t last more than a few days. Still, with so many people depending on Social Security, you should be aware of how long delays can last and when it’s time to follow up and see what’s going on.

Why your Social Security payment might be late

Social Security payments tend to be punctual, but they can be late in some situations. Here are some examples of when that might happen.

You recently applied for benefits

Social Security applications can take up to three months to process, so it’s not unusual to have a significant delay between applying and receiving your first benefit.

If you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the waiting period is five months. However, once your application is approved, you should receive your benefit every month, usually on the same day.

Changes of address

It’s important to have all of your personal information up to date if you want to receive your Social Security benefit on time. If you recently moved, make sure to update your information with the SSA. Failure to do so could lead to delays in your Social Security benefit.

Updated banking information

Similarly, you should let the SSA know about changes to your bank account, such as if you recently switched banks. If the SSA still has your old information, it will cause issues when the administration tries to send your direct deposit. The same will apply if you try to cash a check.

To avoid these delays, update your account information with SSA promptly after any changes.

Delays at Social Security offices

In some cases, there might be delays at Social Security offices. For example, the office might have staffing shortages that lead to delays in payments. If many staff members are out due to a holiday, that could delay the process. However, if the Wednesday you are scheduled to receive your benefit falls on a federal holiday, you should usually receive your benefit on the next day that is not a federal holiday.

What to do if your Social Security is late

Even if your payment is delayed, the SSA recommends waiting three mailing days before contacting the office. You should also review the schedule of Social Security benefits to be sure you know the correct day for your benefit.

Once you confirm it has been at least three days since you should have received your payment, feel free to contact the SSA. You can call your local Social Security office or dial 1-800-772-1213 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, for the national office.

Bottom line

While the Social Security Administration does its best to pay on time, in some scenarios payments might be delayed, for instance, if you moved recently or you changed your banking information and haven’t let the SSA know. If your benefit is delayed, be sure to wait three business days before following up with the SSA.