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Social Security Administration and Calculating my Disability Benefits

Social Security Disability Programs

There are two federally administered programs which provide monthly cash assistance for disabled claimants: Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. The method used to calculate a claimant’s monthly disability payment will depend on whether the claimant is receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Social Security Disability Insurance is paid to disabled workers who have a severe mental or physical health condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months and who are no longer able to perform substantial gainful activity.

The Social Security Administration will only award SSDI benefits if the claimant’s condition is long-term and the worker has earned approximately 20-40 work credits and is considered insured by the SSA. Work credits are earned by paying employment taxes.

Calculating Social Security Disability Insurance Monthly Payments

Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits are based the claimant’s average earnings and their payroll tax contributions to Social Security over the life of their employment.  The more the claimant has paid into Social Security, the more in monthly benefits they are entitled to receive.  The amount of SSDI monthly benefit varies by claimant.

How do you find out how much you will receive? There are three different ways:

  1. Review your Statement of Earnings which is sent to you each year by the Social Security Administration for an estimated payment amount.

  2. Visit the SSA website and use their disability estimator calculator for an estimated payment.

  3. You can also contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 for specific information. Recent updates to the Social Security Administration website indicate that they do not send claimants copies of their Statement of Earnings due to “budget constraints” so if you have lost your most recent Statement of Earnings Report you may have to simply use the calculator for an estimation.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income is provided to the aged (65 years or older), blind or disabled who are not considered “insured” by the Federal government but need cash assistance to meet their minimum monthly expenses.

Supplemental Security Income is a “needs” based program and is only provided to claimants who have VERY limited income and resources and who meet additional non-economic considerations. Claimants who are attempting to qualify for SSI due to a disability must also be unable to work for at least 12 continuous months.

Claimants who do have enough work credits for Social Security Disability Insurance will not qualify for SSDI. There are no exceptions. Claimants who want SSDI but do not have enough work credits will have to return to work and earn more credits.

If that is not an option, claimants can apply for Supplemental Security Income benefits. Claimants who receive SSI have not paid anything into the “SSA system.” Their payment is based on the annual Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) and all claimants are entitled to receive the same amount (although the amount awarded can be lowered if the claimant is living with another person providing food or shelter, living with a spouse who is making an income or if the claimant is working and earning an income).

How much will a claimant make each month if they receive Supplemental Security Income? For 2012, the Federal Benefit Rate is $698 per month for an individual and $1,048 per month for a couple.  That means the most a claimant can receive individually from the Federal Government on SSI is $698 per month.  Some states, however, will add what they call a “state supplemental payment” which may make the claimant’s payment higher in certain states.

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