Your monthly benefit payment will depend on several factors. The first and most significant question to ask – are you eligible for SSDI or SSI?
SSDI Payments Depend on Your Past Payroll Tax Contributions
Disability benefits are calculated based on how much you earned when you were working and how much you paid into the system. The calculation is a complicated mathematical formula based on something called your “primary insurance amount” (known as your “PIA”). Here is a link to Social Security’s page explaining PIA. In years past, SSA would mail you a statement of earnings and benefits which would include an estimate of your disability payment, but SSA no longer mails these statements due to budgetary concerns. You can generate an estimate of your likely payment using an online tool on the SSA website.
I have seen Disability checks as low as $100 per month and as high as $1,800 per month. The typical Disability check I see is about $1,500 per month, but yours may be higher or lower.
In an SSDI case, you do not get paid for the first five full months of your disability (this is called the “five month waiting period”). On the other hand, you can allege and recover benefits for up to one year prior to your application date. Some of these calculations can be very confusing – the main thing to remember is that when you apply you should allege as your onset date the earliest possible date when you became unable to work full time, and second, that there is usually no good reason to delay filing your application. If you would like some advice about starting the application process, please feel free to call me at 770-393-4985.
If you are found eligible for SSDI, your dependents (and spouse if he/she is caring for a child under the age of 16). Eligible dependents will receive up to 50% of your monthly benefit. I say “up to 50%” because the total payable to you (the former wage earner) and your dependents cannot exceed your family maximum. If the family maximum is reached, all auxiliary benefits are reduced equally to bring the total to the family max.
- My colleague Tomasz Stasiuk in Colorado has more about auxiliary benefits – click here to read this information.
SSI Payments Are Set by Statute
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a different kind of disability benefit. SSI is a kind of welfare program in that it pays disability benefits to claimants who have not worked enough to be insured, or eligible, for SSDI. SSI benefits are generally lower than SSDI – these benefits are set by law and change every year. If you have no offsets, your SSI check in 2011 will be around $674 per month for an individual and $1,011 for an eligible claimant with a spouse. Click on the link to review a table showing monthly SSI benefits for prior years.
SSI benefits can also be reduced or offset by your spouse’s income, or by the value of certain assets you may own.
Neither SSDI nor SSI Payments Amount to a Lot of Money
As you can see, Social Security disability and SSI benefit payments are not large, especially in comparison to what you can earn if you are able to work.
If you are just short of credits for SSDI, it may make sense for you to try to work and to earn enough credits to make you eligible for Title II Disability. In general, SSDI payments are significantly higher than SSI and you do not have to worry about income and resource offsets.