How does Social Security determine the amount of money you receive on disability?

What you receive on SSI Disability

If you file for disability and are approved to receive disability benefits under the SSI program, then the amount you may receive is predetermined. This is because the eligibility for SSI benefits is not based on anything that you might have paid into the system. SSI is an entitlement program that is based on need. The amount, therefore, is the same for all benefit recipients.

For the year 2019, the monthly SSI full amount (the maximum that an SSI disability beneficiary may receive on a monthly basis) is $771. This is for an individual. The monthly benefit amount for an SSI eligible person who is married (an ineligible spouse) is $1,157.

As was stated, the monthly SSI disability benefit amount is predetermined. However, it may be reduced by any countable income that the SSI recipient may have, or any spousal income that may be earned by the recipient's "ineligible spouse" (a spouse who does not receive SSI). If the recipient has a spouse who is also eligible to receive SSI, then the total benefit amount payable would be further reduced by dividing it between the two spouses.

Note: An SSI disability recipient's monthly benefit may also be reduced if it is determined that they are living with someone and are not paying their fair share of expenses.

What you receive on SSD, or Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability is quite different from SSI with regard to how monthly benefit amounts are determined. What a person may receive on SSD is based on their earnings record. To be eligible in the first place, a person must have attained insured status by earning enough work credits. A work credit is equivalent to a calendar quarter in which a person had at least X amount in earnings: this amount is subject to change but in 2011 you would receive one credit for each $1,120 of earnings.

Insured status will allow a person to file a claim for SSD. Individuals who do not have insured status may still Social security administration definition of disability prior to the expiration of the DLI, or date last insured.

Does the person who files for disability need to know what their DLI is, or even if they have become insured for SSD? Not really. The only thing that a claimant needs to be concerned with is initiating the application for disability (by contacting a social security office and arranging for a disability application interview). The social security office CR (claims representative) will determine which program the claimant is eligible to apply under (it may be both) and can also inform the claimant of their insured status as well as what their benefit amount might be.

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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These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Filing for disability, When should you?