How are Social Security Disability Benefit Amounts Determined?

Not everyone receives the same size disability check. The amount you receive is actually based on your average lifetime earnings. You may recall receiving a letter from the Social Security Administration around your birthday each year. This letter included a summary of your lifetime earnings and your estimated disability benefit, if you become disabled. Now you can get the same information online.

Go to www.ssa.gov and click on my Social Security. Create an account following the instructions. Once your account is created, you can find out an estimate of the amount your disability check would be. The amount will increase the more you work or earn. If you are a disabled widow or widower, the rate depends on how much your late spouse worked or earned in the past.

Back Benefits

You may also be entitled to back benefits. These benefits begin accruing five months after the date of onset of your disability, and they accrue until you win your Social Security Disability case. Because getting SSD benefits can take such a long time, many people are entitled to months and months of back benefits when they finally win their cases.

Where Does the Money Come From?

Social Security Disability benefits come from payments made by workers and their employers. These payments are made in the form of Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes, and are withheld from your wages. You may have noticed these taxes coming out of your paycheck before you ever considered filing for Social Security Disability. If you have spent enough time working at a job where you were required to pay FICA taxes, you will most likely be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you become disabled.

It is important to know that if you stop working, the credits you accrued for SSD can only last, at most, five years after you stopped working continuously. This means that these work credits may expire if you stop working and do not apply for disability benefits. If an individual applies and is awarded benefits, the benefits would continue on regardless of expired work credits. That is why it is imperative to apply for SSD benefits as soon as you feel you are unable to work.

Unlike SSD benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a fixed amount because it is a low income program and the benefit does not depend on FICA taxes being paid.

To learn more about what benefits you may be eligible for, contact the experienced Social Security Disability Attorneys at Berger and Green to discuss your claim.