Let's talk about how Social Security decides the amount of money you will receive on disability.

When talking about how much you will receive on Social Security Disability, we have to separate Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Amount of Money You'll Receive on SSI

How much money you receive in your monthly SSI check depends on whether you’res single or married, live alone or with someone else, and have other sources of income. Your residence also matters. Some states offer a supplement that increases the federal SSI amount.

All things equal, every person approved for SSI will receive the same amount of money each month. In 2016 the maximum SSI payment is $733 per month for an individual and $1,100 for a couple. Your SSI check is not based on your past earnings. Sometimes the federal government increases the federal base rate, which is an increase to account for increases in cost of living.

Why does each claimant receive the same amount of money under the SSI program? Because eligibility is based on your assets, resources, and income – not the amount of money you paid into the Social Security system while working.

If you’re married to a person who also receives SSI, then you’ll receive the amount for couples – $1,100. This is less than the combined amount you would receive individually. We don’t think that’s fair, but it is the law. Social Security reduces the amount because it presumes that some of your expenses are shared.

Your monthly SSI payment is also reduced if you have earned income while receiving disability. Social Security ignores the first $20 of any income you receive each month, as well as the first $65 of any earned income for work. Social Security will also ignore half of the remaining income you receive. The total amount after these calculations is your countable income.

There is other income that Social Security will not consider countable income:

  • The first $7,000 in earnings for disabled students under age 22
  • Work-related expenses that are related to your disability are deducted (i.e. special transportation)
  • Tax refunds

If you do not have to pay for your room and board, Social Security will consider this as income and reduce your SSI payment. The amount deducted may be significant – as much as 1/3 of your monthly payment.

Government benefits for food and shelter do not count as income. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, also known as food stamps, do not count as income for SSI purposes. Nor do payments or assistance given to you if you live in federally subsidized housing.

Your monthly SSI benefit may be reduced if you or your spouse earn income during the period you are found disabled. Your SSI Award Letter should explain this. If it does not, contact a Richmond Social Security Disability Lawyer or Newport News SSD Attorney for a free consultation.

Amount of SSDI Benefits You’ll Receive

Your monthly SSDI benefits are based on your average lifetime earnings before you became disabled. They are not based on the severity of your disability. Nor will the amount change if you have other pensions or sources of income, excluding other disability benefits. All that matters is that you are found disabled and that you are not engaged in substantial gainful activity.

Most SSDI beneficiaries receive between $800 and $1600 per month in SSDI benefits. The average in 2016 is a little under $1,200. If you are receiving other disability benefits, like Virginia Retirement System benefits, long term disability benefits, or Virginia Workers’ Compensation, then your monthly SSDI benefit may be reduced.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a complicated formula to determine your monthly SSDI benefit. In 2016 the maximum benefit is $2,639 per person. The SSA determines how much you should receive in monthly SSDI payments by analyzing how much you’ve paid in Social Security taxes over your lifetime. You can log on to the SSA’s website to view your entire covered earnings history and to see what your estimated monthly benefit payment would be.

Remember that o receive SSDI you must have enough work credits. As a general rule you will lose your insured status five years after you last worked. If you have enough work credits then you can file for SSDI. If you do not then you will have to seek benefits through the SSI program.

So how do you know when your eligibility expires under the SSDI program? Ask the SSA for your DLI. DLI stands for date last insured. You must prove disability before your DLI to receive Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. If you are found disabled after your DLI, your SSDI claim be denied. The disability claims examiner should tell you the DLI.

If you have a strong work history then you will receive much more in SSDI benefits than you would receive under the SSI program.

Looking for more information on how much money you can receive under SSI or SSDI? Have another question about whether you’re entitled to Social Security benefits for your physical disability or mental disorder? Call or e-mail us now.