Each and every year, millions of Americans suffer from a disabling condition. It is not uncommon for a disability to interfere with an individual's ability to work and earn an income. As a result, these disabled individuals must rely on Social Security Disability benefits to make ends meet. Many of the people who apply for Social Security Disability benefits find themselves uncertain as to how much money they will receive each month from the Social Security Administration.
If you are approved for Social Security Disability benefits, how much will you be paid each month when your benefit check arrives? Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn't always cut and dry. There are, however, ways that you can estimate what you might expect from the Social Security Administration. If you are wondering how much money you are eligible to receive through Social Security Disability benefits, the following information can help you understand the ways of determining your monthly disability benefit amount may be.
Determining Your Benefits
How much money you receive in Social Security Disability benefits each month will depend on a variety of factors including which disability benefits you are eligible for (SSI or SSDI) and how much money you earned and paid into the Social Security system. Each year the Social Security Administration sends a Social Security Statement that lets you know how much money you would be entitled to if you became disabled at the time the statement was prepared. This statement is the most accurate way to estimate your monthly disability benefit amount. If you do not have a copy of this statement, you can contact the Social Security Administration to request one. It will take three to four weeks from the date of your request to receive the statement in the mail.
If you do not want to wait to receive your Social Security Statement, you can also use the SSA's online benfits calculator to determine how much money you might receive in monthly Social Security Disability benefits. Of course, these calculators cannot guarantee the amount you will receive or ensure that you will actually be eligible for benefits. They can, however, be used as a general guideline to estimate the benefits you may be entitled to.
The Average Disability Benefit
While it is impossible to tell exactly how much you will receive in Social Security Disability benefits until you are actually approved for benefits by the Social Security Administration, knowing the average Social Security Disability payment can shed some light on how much money the average disability recipient is entitled to.
Social Security disability benefits amount varies on a case to case basis. As of 2008, the average SSDI payment to individuals who qualify for Social Security Disability benefits was $1,063.00 per month. The average SSI benefit was $439 per month. The amount you receive if you are eligible for disability benefits may be higher or lower than these amounts depending on your past earnings, your current earnings and the number of dependents living in your household.
Since the SSI program is a needs-based program, some Social Security Disability recipients are able to qualify for both SSI and SSDI benefits depending on their household income and the number of dependents living in the household.
Getting Additional Support and Assistance
Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME)
In 2019, the average Social Security disability payment totalled $1,234 per month, with some high income earners receiving as much as $2,681. The Social Security Administration will use your earnings history to determine the exact amount you’ll receive, but this is a good number to start with.
In order to arrive at the amount you’ll receive on a monthly basis, the SSA will use your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) and Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) to determine the exact amount. It’s a complicated series of calculations, which is why many people use the average amounts to gauge how much they will receive.
Your AIME is based on up to 35 working years of your earnings history. The SSA will take the highest indexed earnings over the years, add them up and divide them by the number of months in those years. The resulting average is rounded down, and this is your AIME.
The SSA will also use your PIA to calculate your disability payments. Your PIA is based upon three fixed percentages - 90%, 32% and 15% - of your AIME. The resulting figures are your “bend points”, which represent the base amount of your benefits.
If this information is overwhelming, the SSA provides the exact amount you would receive if you became disabled in your Social Security Administration statement. You should receive a copy of this document each year, or you can log into the SSA website to access it.
Just as your lifetime earnings can impact the amount you’ll receive as part of your Social Security disability benefits, there are also considerations that the Social Security Administration will examine in your application that have the potential to lower the amount you will receive. These are called “offsets.”
Offsets include other forms of government-regulated disability payments that you might have received or are currently receiving, such as workers’ compensation settlements or temporary state disability benefits. If you have received either of these benefits then the most you can receive is 80% of your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings between Social Security disability benefits and other government-regulated disability benefits. If you exceed that amount, your SSDI will be reduced to fall within the 80% guidelines.
It is important to note that veterans benefits, long-term disability payments from private insurance and Social Security Insurance payments will not impact the amount you receive in your Social Security disability benefits.
Back Pay Amount
When filing your claim for Social Security disability benefits, keep in mind that you will be entitled to back pay. This will be determined by when you filed your application for disability benefits and the date that you first became disabled.
Once you file your application, the clock begins. If your application is approved, then the Social Security Administration will grant you back pay from the time you filed until you were approved, in addition to up to 12 months of payments prior to submitting your application. The SSA will look at the Established Onset Date (EOD) of your disability to determine when you became disabled, and then they will determine how many months of additional backpay you are entitled to, up to 12 payments.
It’s important to note that once your application is approved there is a five month waiting period following the point when you first became disabled. This means that your claim will be paid out five months after the established onset of your disability. Essentially, what this means is that in order to receive the full 12 months of back pay from the date you filed your application, your disability must have been established 17 months prior.
An example of this is that if you became disabled on January 1, 2018 and filed for disability benefits on January 1, 2019, your retroactive payments would not begin calculating until after May 2018. In order to receive the full 12 months, the Established Onset Date would have to be July 2018.
Furthermore, you can file a Protective Filing Date (PFD) statement in writing with the Social Security Administration that establishes your intention to file for disability benefits. If you choose to file your application online your PFD establishes itself automatically, so the only time you need to submit a written PFD statement is if you’re not filing online. A PFD is a good idea because your retroactive payments will begin based on this date and not when you actually submitted your claim, and this will give you some extra time to gather medical documentation to support your claim.
If you are approved for Social Security Disability benefits and you feel that the monthly amount you are awarded is not enough to cover your day-to-day living expenses, you may want to check with your local state agency to see what other forms of assistance you may be entitled to. Some states supplement the SSI payments received by their residents and others provide other forms of assistance, such as medical care and food stamp benefits. Your local state agency can discuss what additional assistance, if any, you may be entitled to in addition to Social Security Disability benefits.