The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not have a set amount that it provides to all disability recipients. Rather, it considers a host of factors when determining claimants’ benefits. The first factor the SSA considers is which of the two disability benefit programs qualify for. The SSA calculates the benefits for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients in very different ways.
Below, we provide a brief overview of Social Security disability benefit pay and key factors that play a role when determining how much Social Security disability pays. For help determining the actual benefit amount you may be entitled to, speak to one of our disability lawyers at the Disability Advantage Group by calling 865-566-0800. The consultation is free.
How much are monthly Social Security Disability Insurance benefits?
SSDI is a benefit program for disabled workers who have paid sufficient Social Security taxes, withheld from their earnings throughout the years. The amount of pay recipients collect is contingent upon their lifetime earnings that they paid taxes on. These are called “covered earnings.”
If you had a job and your employer withheld income taxes from your pay, you are vested into the SSDI program. To be fully vested and eligible for benefits, you will need a certain number of work credits on your record.
The longer you worked and the more money you made before you became disabled, the higher your benefit check will be. SSDI benefits average around $1,170 per month according to SSA statistics, but may be much higher. The maximum SSDI benefit the SSA will allow is $2,639, although this cap changes periodically when the cost of living increases. Also, certain benefits, such as workers’ compensation, may reduce SSDI. Speak to a local disability attorney for more information.
TIP: You can see your covered lifetime earnings and your estimated retirement and disability benefits by checking your Social Security online statement.
How much are monthly Supplemental Security Income benefits?
Like SSDI, SSI is a program that provides monthly cash benefits for disabled persons. However, that is where the similarities end. While SSDI is geared toward disabled workers with adequate work histories, SSI is a need-based benefit for blind persons and disabled children and adults with:
- Little to no work background,
- Limited income, and
- Very few resources
Rather than basing the benefit pay off covered income as with SSDI, for SSI recipients, the SSA considers different factors such as monthly earnings and the amount of allowable assets and resources a claimant has. The maximum SSI monthly benefit is equal to whatever the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) is for the year. In 2017, the FBR/max SSI benefit is $735.
There are various factors that can lower your monthly SSI pay. For example, getting a part-time job or earning money online can reduce your SSI pay. (If your income exceeds the FBR, you will not be entitled to any monthly pay at all.) Also, if someone pays for your housing or food, those contributions are considered in-kind support and maintenance (ISM) and can likewise reduce your SSI benefit. Receiving SSDI will also lower your monthly payment.
How much back pay am I entitled to?
Both SSI and SSDI claimants can recover back pay (i.e., benefits you were eligible for while the SSA made its decision). For example, if you applied for benefits on January 1, 2016, but the SSA did not make its decision until October 1, 2016, you are entitled to benefits for those months.
Note, however, that the SSA enforces a five-month waiting period for SSDI. This means you are not entitled to benefits for five months following your established onset date (i.e., the day the SSA says your disability began).
Here is an example to see how back pay works. Let’s say you applied as soon as you became disabled: January 1, 2016. The SSA approved for monthly benefits in the amount of $1,000 11 months later in November 2016. You can receive back benefits for six of those 11 months, accounting for the five-month period.
Your back pay will be calculated at: $1,000 monthly benefit x 6 payable months = $6,000.
If the SSA approves you for SSDI benefits, you might also be eligible for retroactive benefits. Retroactive benefits are available for the months you were disabled and unable to work before you applied for benefits. For example, if you waited a year after you became disabled to apply for benefits, you could be entitled to seven months of disability benefits.
What is a COLA and how can it affect disability benefit pay?
The SSA recognizes and accounts for inflation and the increased cost of living everyone in America is subject to. So, the SSA periodically adjusts benefit amounts to account for the increased cost of living. It calls these increases Cost-Of-Living Adjustments, or COLAs. COLAs are usually minor and only increase disability recipients’ checks by a few dollars. But every little bit counts and it adds up over time.
The last COLA — a 0.3-percent increase — was put into effect on October 18, 2016. This increased maximum SSI benefits from $733 to $735, and the average SSDI benefit from $1,167 to $1,171. The SSA will announce the next COLA in October 2017.
How do I know if my disability benefit amount is accurate?
These SSA does a fairly remarkable job at doling out millions of checks each month to retired and disabled individuals and beneficiaries. But mistakes do happen.
“Often underpayments involve errors in your earnings history, the year-by-year listing in Social Security’s computers of how much you made over your career,” explains AARP.
You can call 865-566-0800 for a free case evaluation and to speak to an attorney about your disability benefits. Our team of qualified lawyers at the Disability Advantage Group focuses its entire practice on helping people living with disabilities obtain the benefits they need and deserve. We have the education, experience, and drive that it takes to help disability cases conclude successfully.
Our lawyers can assist you at any stage of the claims process, from initial filing and gathering medical data to double checking your benefit amount or appealing a wrongly denied claim. Call us today at 865-566-0800 to discuss your disability benefits today.