How Does Social Security Decide How Much I Get For Social Security Disability or SSI?

How much can an individual receive from Social Security Disability or from SSI disability?

The amount of a disability beneficiary's benefits depends upon which disability program they receive their disability benefits from. Social Security Disability beneficiaries (this is the title II benefit program) receive a benefit that is based upon the work they performed prior to becoming disabled. And with SSD there is no maximum primary disability benefit amount an individual can get.

In other words, your SSD monthly benefit has no cap and is simply dependent on what your earnings were before you began to receive disability benefits.

There is a maximum amount of earnings per year that can be counted toward an individual's benefit computation and that is tied into the amount of Social Security taxable earnings allowed each year.

Having said that, Social Security Disability beneficiaries, as was previously stated, receive a benefit that is directly related to how much they have earned. Social Security benefit computations are, to some extent, geared toward those who have low earnings, or have not worked much, which means that the computation formula works to some consideration to those who have worked fewer years or have lower earnings.

However, this is done so as not to put certain disabled workers at an extreme disadvantage, and it does not disadvantage those who have worked longer or earned more.

Earnings determine Social Security Disability benefits, so what if an individual becomes disabled and they have no earnings at all? Social Security has a disability program for individuals who are not insured for Social Security Disability. It is the SSI program.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a need-based disability program that does not require that a person to have ever worked. It benefits minor-age children, individuals who have not worked (stay at home parents and caretakers would be part of this group), as well as individuals who were previously covered by Social Security Disability but who have lost their eligibility due to being out of the work force for an extended length of time.

SSI is strictly based upon need. Consequently, there is a limit to the amount that SSI disability beneficiaries receive. Each year, Social Security determines a maximum monthly amount an SSI disability beneficiary can get. That maximum amount can be reduced when by an individual's earnings, pension benefits, unemployment, or other sources of income, and by an individual's living arrangement.

You may be wondering why your living arrangements would affect how much you get for disability within the SSI disability program. SSI disability beneficiaries must be paying their fair share of household bills to receive the full amount of their SSI disability. Apparently, it was determined that an individual not paying their share of the household bills does not need as much help to survive.

Basically, because someone is subsidizing them by paying most of the bills needed to provide them with food and shelter. So if you get SSI disability, your disability benefit amount may be reduced if you have income or help from family, friends, etc.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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