If you are unable to work due to a physical or mental health condition, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Specifically, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) offers monthly cash benefits for individuals with disabilities who cannot work for a period of 12 months or longer, or whose condition is expected to be terminal. To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must meet certain eligibility criteria, including the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s definition of disability.
Once your disability application is approved, you will receive a monthly cash benefit. The amount of SSDI that you get is not based on how severe your disability is, or how many resources you have (or don’t have). Instead, it is based on your average lifetime earnings before you became disabled.
Most people who qualify for SSDI receive anywhere from $800 to $1,200 per month. In 2021, the average Social Security disability benefit was $1,277 per month, with a minimum of $100 per month and a maximum of $3,148 per month. There are a number of factors that may affect how much SSDI you receive. A skilled Los Angeles Social Security Disability Attorney can advocate for your right to receive the maximum benefits under the law.
If you do not qualify for SSDI benefits, you may still be entitled to disability benefits under the SSI (Supplemental Security income) disability program.
How Social Security Disability Is Calculated
To determine how much an individual will receive in SSDI benefits, the SSA uses a complex formula that weighs several different factors. As a result, the amount of Social Security disability that each applicant gets is unique.
One of the main eligibility criteria for SSDI benefits – in addition to being disabled – is having paid into the system. When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you are awarded work credits. Depending on your age, you will need a certain number of work credits to qualify for SSDI.
The taxes that you pay also factor into the calculation of how much Social Security disability you will get. The amount of income on which you paid Social Security taxes is called covered earnings. The SSA takes an average of these earnings over a period of years to come up with your average indexed monthly earnings, or AIME.
The AIME number is based on up to 35 years of a workers’ indexed earnings. Importantly, workers’ earnings are adjusted (or indexed) to reflect the change in wage levels during their years of employment. In this way, benefits will reflect the overall rise in the standard of living that occurred over a lifetime.
Next, the SSA applies a formula to your AIME to determine your primary insurance amount or PIA. This is the baseline that the SSA will use to set your benefit amount. The formula that the SSA uses is complicated, involving fixed percentages of different amounts of income (known as “bend points”), which are then added to your AIME to find your PIA. For 2021, the bend points are $966 and $6,002.
If you are curious about how much you have paid into the Social Security system, you can view your covered earnings history through your my Social Security account. You can also enter your own salary information using the SSA’s Social Security disability benefits calculator. In California, residents can also call their local Social Security office to get an estimate of what your benefits might be.
This information can be helpful in estimating exactly how much you may receive in SSDI benefits if you become disabled. A skilled Los Angeles disability benefits lawyer can also advise you of how much you might receive in Social Security disability benefits.
When you are approved for SSDI benefits, you will start to receive a monthly payment after a five-month waiting period. This means that you will receive your first payment in the sixth full month after the SSA determines that your disability began. At this time, you will also receive back pay, which is calculated based on your monthly benefit amount, your application date, and the day that your disability started.
What Happens If I Am Getting Other Disability Benefits?
Importantly, there are other factors that the SSA takes into account when determining your benefit amount. Specifically, if you receive other disability benefits, then it may affect your SSDI benefit amount.
Disability benefits from a private insurance company will not reduce your SSDI benefits. Similarly, if you get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits or disability benefits from the Veterans Affairs (VA), then your SSDI won’t be impacted.
However, certain disability benefits that are either regulated or provided by the government will affect your SSDI benefits. Specifically, California workers’ compensation and temporary state disability benefits will reduce the total amount that you receive. The general rule is that you cannot receive more than 80% of your pre-disability income in disability benefits, so the amount of SSDI will be reduced accordingly.
Work with an Experienced California Disability Benefits Lawyer
Dealing with a disability that leaves you unable to work can be difficult enough on its own. For many people, the thought of going through the bureaucracy involved with filing for disability benefits is overwhelming. Our team is here to help.
At RCM Legal, we have decades of combined experience advocating for people with disabilities and those who have suffered injuries. We take an aggressive approach to each case, working hard to help our clients get the benefits that they deserve. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with a Los Angeles disability benefits attorney, call us at 866-463-2096 or fill out our online contact form.