Family Maximum

If you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, certain family members could also collect based on your earnings. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) enforces a Family Maximum Benefit (FMB) for everyone collecting on your worker record. Supplementary Security Insurance (SSI) recipients aren’t eligible for family benefits.

Eligible family members include your spouse caring for your child that’s younger than 16 or disabled, or your spouse is over 62 years of age. In order for ex-spouses to collect benefits based on your earnings, your marriage needed to have lasted at least ten years and your spouse needs to be unmarried, over 62, and not eligible for higher payments based on his or her earnings.

Minor biological, adopted, or step children may be eligible if they are unmarried. If your child is 19 or younger and enrolled in high school or disabled at any age, they could qualify as well. The SSA may also pay your parents benefits if they are over 62 and you provide at least one-half of their financial support.

If you’re disabled, each family member could be eligible for between 50 percent and 100 percent of your monthly parent. However, your family maximum is 85 percent of your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) but not less than you Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) or more than 150 percent of your PIA.

Your AIME is your average salary over the years. The SSA takes into account every job that paid into Social Security taxes over the course of no more than 35 years. The SSA chooses the years with the highest income, and divides the total by the number of months worked. The average is rounded down to the lowest dollar amount, and this is your AIME.

Once the SSA has your AIME, they can figure out your PIA. Your PIA is the amount of monthly benefits you would receive starting at your normal retirement age. Your PIA is the sum of 90 percent of the first $856 of your AIME, 32 percent of your AIME between $856 and $5,157, and 15 percent of your AIME over $5,157 in 2016. The percentages are mandated by law, but the income limits change each year with the cost of living.

To meet the FMB, your monthly payments are never reduced. The SSA will reduce each family member’s benefits so they don’t exceed the FMB. Generally, the total amount of benefits your family will receive is 150 percent to 180 percent of your monthly benefits.