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Understanding SSI and SSDI Disability Payments: How Much Will You Receive?

Understanding SSI and SSDI disability payments can be confusing.  Social Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance both come from the Social Security Administration, but they are two different programs within the same agency. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides financial assistance to disabled individuals who do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI.  Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) supports disabled individuals who have the required work credits. The main difference is that SSI is based on disability, assets, your geographic region, and income, while SSDI is based upon your age and your work credits.

Eligibility for SSI and SSDI Disability Payments

The Social Security Administration uses a strict definition of disability.  To be disabled you must not be able to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) because of a medical condition that is expected to result in death, or that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.  You will need to submit medical records to support the disability application.

After your eligibility is approved, there is a calculation to determine how much your payment will be.  Once you have set up your mySocialSecurity account, then you can verify your earnings and view estimated benefits.  Perhaps the easiest and most accurate estimate is via the Social Security benefit calculators.

This begins by figuring out your average monthly income throughout your working life, adjusted for wage growth. The Social Security Administration will count the number of years from the year you turned 22 to the year before you became disabled, and will then determine how many of those working years will factor into the calculation. The longer you have been working, the more payment years will be averaged.

If you are over the age of 62, then you may also be entitled to early retirement. However, if you can retire under disability, you will receive your full retirement benefit at an earlier age without age reductions. So retiring under disability can pay much better than under early retirement.

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Factors Influencing SSDI Payment Amounts

There are several factors that influence your SSDI payment amount. Some of these include:

  • Age at the Time of Disability and Retirement Age

Your age makes a difference in your eligibility for SSDI.  The closer you get to Advance Age (age 55) the harder it is for a person to adjust to other work.

  • Earning History and Amount of Pay

The higher your earnings, the longer you worked, and more work credits you have accumulated impacts much you earn.  If you are eligible for SSDI after only working a few years at a minimum wage job, then your payment will be much lower than someone who has worked for twenty years at a larger salary.

At 24, you will need at least six work credits in the prior three years, between 24 and 31 you will need to spend half the time after 21 to the age of disability in covered work, and after 31, you need 20 credits of work in the decade before you became disabled.   In 2023 you will get one work credit for each $1,640 you earn in covered employment, up to four credits a year. For retirement, you can begin to qualify at 40 credits, but for disability, there is a sliding scale for credits.

Impact of Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA)

You don’t need to do anything to receive a COLA bump. Every year, the SSA will modify your payment to reflect a Cost-of-Living Adjustment.

Estimating Your SSDI Payment Amount

Right now, the maximum amount you can receive from SSDI is $3,627 a month, but most recipients will be eligible for much less. The average SSDI benefit is just over $1,300 a month. If you create a mySocialSecurity account, you can access your earnings record, your income history, your work credits, and your estimated payments. You will also be able to see if there are any errors and begin the process to correct that information, if necessary. As the math can get complicated, in addition to this account and the information provided, there are many online tools and calculators that you can use to estimate your SSDI payment amounts. When you create a MySocialSecurity account, you will also be able to see how to contact the administration directly for assistance.

Additional Considerations and Resources

Most SSDI applications are denied initially.  There is an appeals process. Because the appeals process can be confusing and the timelines and deadlines are strict, we recommend contacting a SSDI attorney to help you with the appeals process. When you have an experienced SSDI attorney, they can speak on your behalf throughout the appeal process, as well as help you submit the correct documents.

Applying for SSDI can be an overwhelming process, from the initial application through the calculation of benefits. To move forward with the least amount of stress, contact Arthur Law Firm (419) 782-9881 right away for a free disability consultation.