How Much in Social Security Disability Benefits Can I Receive?
If you’re applying for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI), you’re probably wondering how much you can expect to receive in benefits each month. There’s no standard monthly benefit. Instead, SSDI is calculated based on past earnings. But, that calculation is a bit more complicated than it may appear at a glance. And, there’s a cap on SSDI benefits. Here’s what you need to know about how your monthly benefit amount will be determined.
Average Social Security Disability Benefits
As of November 2022, the average disabled worker receiving SSDI got $1,364.28 in benefits each month. But, benefits for a particular recipient may be higher or lower, depending on factors like earnings during their working years and whether they have qualifying beneficiaries.
As of June 2022, more than 7.7 million disabled workers were receiving Social Security disability benefits. Of these:
- Nearly 330,000 received less than $500/month
- About 1.9 million received at least $500 but less than $1,000/per month
- About 2.8 million received at least $1,000 but less than $1,500/per month
- About 1.5 million received at least $1,500 but less than $2,000/per month
- More than 730,000 received at least $2,000 but less than $2,500/per month
- About 419,000 received between $2,000 and the maximum benefit amount of $3,345/month
As you can see, a monthly benefit between $1,000 and $1,499/month is most common, with more than 36% of disabled workers receiving SSDI falling into that range.
In 2023, the maximum monthly benefit amount increases to $3,627/month. Those already receiving benefits can expect an 8.7% increase.
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits are Based on Average Income from Work
The amount of Social Security disability benefits you can receive is based on your average income across up to 35 years. But, the calculation isn’t as simple as adding up your earnings and dividing by the number of months you worked.
First, the income figure used in the calculation isn’t necessarily the actual amount you earned. That’s because the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a figure called “average indexed monthly earnings” (AIME). The indexing process applies a multiplier to past years’ earnings based on the ratio of average indexed earnings in that year to average indexed earnings in the year earnings are indexed to.
That sounds a little complex, but it’s simply a way for SSA to make sure that people with long work histories aren’t penalized by the change in average earnings and cost of living over time.
Your AIME is used to calculate your primary insurance amount (PIA), also known as your full retirement amount. How closely related to your past earnings your PIA is will depend on how high your earnings were. The calculation is graduated, so disabled workers who had lower incomes will see PIA numbers (and benefits) closer to the amount of their actual earnings. In 2023, PIA will be the combined total of:
- 90% of the first $1,115 in AIME
- 32% of AIME above $1,115 up to and including $6,721
- 15% of AIME over $6,721
In other words, if AIME is $1,115 or below, the PIA will be 90% of AIME. But, as earnings increase, that percentage drops off rapidly. For instance, if AIME is $3,000, PIA will be the sum of:
- 90$ of $1,115 ($1,003.50), and
- 32% of the remaining $1,885 ($603.20)
That’s a total of $1,606.70, or just 54.5% of AIME, compared with 90% for the applicant with AIME of $1,115.
You Don’t Have to Do the Social Security Disability Benefits Math
The information above describes how the SSA determines how much SSDI income you may be entitled to. But, you won’t have to worry about those calculations to get an idea of the amount of possible benefits. You can log in to your SSA account to see the work history SSA has on record for you, what your projected full retirement benefit will be, and what you might be entitled to if you applied for disability benefits in the current year. If you don’t have an account, it’s quick and easy to set one up.
If your work history doesn’t look right and you believe you should have more work credits or additional earnings included in the benefits calculation, a Social Security disability advocate can help you ensure that you’re getting credit for all of your work. Note, though, that if you were self-employed and did not pay self-employment taxes, that work won’t be counted for Social Security Disability Insurance or Social Security purposes.
Other Factors Impacting Social Security Disability Benefit Amounts
When you log in to your SSA account and look at the estimated amount of benefits available to you, it’s important to remember that the numbers you see are based solely on your work history and the resulting PIA.
One key factor not considered in those estimates is any income you may have from work. It is possible to receive SSDI while earning a small amount of money from work. The SSA even offers a program to allow people on disability to try out working at a certain level without losing benefits. The rules are a bit complicated, but for 2023 the magic number to keep in mind is $1,050. If you earn more than that in any given month, that month will be classified as a trial work period. Accrue nine of those in a 60-month period and you’ll shift into a special 36-month period where month-to-month eligibility for benefits depends on your earnings.
SSDI Benefits Often Start with a Lump Sum Payment
When people ask about the amount of Social Security disability benefits, they are typically thinking in terms of the monthly benefit. But, many SSDI recipients start off with a larger check. That’s because:
- If you didn’t file your application right away when you became disabled, you may be entitled to up to 12 months of retroactive benefits, and
- By the time your application is approved, you may have accrued months of post-application benefits
The amount of this initial payment will depend on the amount of your monthly benefits, when you became disabled, when you applied, and how long it took to get your application approved.
An Experienced Social Security Disability Benefits Advocate Can Help
Unfortunately, most initial SSDI applications are denied, and securing disability benefits can be a long and challenging process. Making sure your initial application is complete, accurate, and well-supported is the first step toward success.
At Disability Help Group, we understand how stressful and confusing the process can be. We also know how important it is to receive your benefits as quickly as possible. We’re here to help, no matter where in the process you are. Contact us or call (800) 800-3332 to talk to a seasoned disability advocate right now.