How much does Disability Pay?

If an individual is approved to receive disability benefits, how much they will receive in disability pay will depend on several factors. The first and primary consideration is which program the person has been approved to receive disability benefits in.

For those who are unaware, the social security administration has two separate disability programs, SSD disability (title II benefits) and SSI disability, or title 16 benefits.

Disability claims taken in either program are processed in exactly the same manner, meaning that the medical evaluation process is identical regardless of whether a claim is taken in the Social Security Disability program or the SSI disability program. The process involves obtaining the claimant's medical records and using them to determine if the individual has the capability to engage in substantial and gainful work activity.

What is very different between the two programs, however, is what a person may receive. This is due to the funding mechanisms of each program. SSD, or Social Security Disability, is a program based on insured status and having gained work credits as a result of work activity. To be eligible for Social Security Disability, a person must have "paid into the system" via fica taxes that are either deducted from a paycheck or paid directly by a self-employed individual.

Because Social Security Disability is based on what a person has paid in taxes over the course of their working years, the amount that they receive on a social security retirement check or on a Social Security Disability check will be based on this. And it is for this reason that most recipient's checks will be for different amounts.

So an individual who has typically earned $30,000 per year will receive a larger benefit amount (at retirement or in the event that they become disabled) than a person who has typically earned $20,000 per year. And, of course, a person who has typically earned $40-50,000 per year will receive even more in monthly retirement or disability benefits.

SSI is quite different from SSD. SSI is basically set up to provide retirement or disability benefits to:

A) Individuals who are not insured to receive Social Security Disability (such as stay-at-home spouses and minor-age children),

B) Individual who were once insured for SSD but have lost their insured status because they have not worked for a long time (one example would be where an individual returned to school for a number of years),


C) Individuals who are insured to receive SSD benefits but would only receive a fairly small monthly check; in this last instance, a person might actually receive what is known as a concurrent benefit, meaning they would receive benefits in both programs.

For more on this topic: Who is eligible for SSI?

SSI is basically a need based program and because it is the amount a person may receive is pre-defined. For 2019, the maximum amount that a person may receive for SSI disability is $771 per month. Keep in mind, however, that the SSI amount a person receives may be reduced if the individual has earned income. It may also be reduced due to family income.

For instance, if a minor-age child receives SSI, the check may be reduced if one or both of the parents have income. Likewise, the SSI benefits of an adult may be reduced if he or she is married and the spouse has income.

Of additional interest: How long can you receive SSI or Social Security Disability benefits?

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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