How much your SSDI (Social Security disability) benefit will be is based on your "covered earnings"—the wages that you paid Social Security taxes on—before becoming disabled.
Your SSDI benefits might be reduced if you get disability payments from other sources, such as workers' comp, but regular income won't affect your SSDI payment amount.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) and Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) to calculate your SSDI benefits. The formula Social Security uses to calculate your disability benefits is quite complicated, and most people won't be interested in trying to calculate their benefits on their own.
Social Security can give you a good estimate if you call the agency or create a "my Social Security account" on their website. But here's some information on averages.
To give you an idea of how much SSDI pays, for 2024, the average SSDI payment $1,537 per month. People whose income was fairly high in recent years can receive up to $3,822.
SSDI payments don't vary by state; your SSDI payments will stay the same no matter which state you live in.
If you're interested in how Social Security calculates your AIME and PIA, here's how.
First Social Security will determine your AIME. To do this, the SSA will adjust, or index, your lifetime earnings to account for the increase in general wages that happened during the years you worked. Social Security does this to make sure that the payments you get in the future mirror this rise.
Social Security will use up to 35 of your working years in the calculation. The SSA takes the years with the highest indexed earnings, adds them together, and divides them by the total number of months for those years. The average is then rounded down to reach your AIME.
You can see an example of how Social Security calculates an AIME on the SSA's website.
Your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) is the base amount of your benefits. The SSA uses the total of three fixed percentages of your AIME to determine your PIA. The dollar amounts that result from the calculation are called "bend points." Bend points are changed each year to reflect the national average wage index.
The PIA for someone who becomes eligible for SSDI benefits in 2024 is the sum (total) of the following:
If the sum of the percentages isn't a multiple of $0.10, it will be rounded to the next lower multiple of $0.10.
The easiest way to calculate SSDI benefits is to go to www.ssa.gov/mystatement, log in, and check your benefits statement. It will tell you exactly how much SSDI you will get if you become disabled this year.
By the time most disability applicants get an approval letter from Social Security, they're eligible for back payments of SSDI benefits. The number of months of back payments you'll receive depends on when you applied for SSDI and the date the SSA decided you became disabled (called your "established onset date," or EOD).
The amount you'll receive in total SSDI backpay equals your monthly SSDI benefit amount times the number of months the SSA owes you.
In addition to getting payments going back to your application date, you can get up to 12 months of retroactive payments for the year before your application date (or before your "protective filing date," discussed below)—if you were disabled that long ago. You can't get benefits for the months before your onset date. For more information, see our article on calculating back pay.
Once you're approved for benefits, you'll have a five-month waiting period, starting at your disability onset date, before you can be paid benefits. This means that, to receive the maximum amount of backpay (going back for the 12 months before your application date), you must have an EOD of at least 17 months before your application date (or before your protective filing date).
The one exception to this rule is for ALS; claimants who have been diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, don't have a five-month waiting period.
You can establish a protective filing date (PFD) by making a written statement to the SSA that you intend to file for disability benefits. A PFD is also established when you begin an online application, even if you don't complete it.
Some disability payments, such as workers' compensation settlements, can reduce your SSDI benefit amount. These are called "offsets." Most other disability benefits, however, such as veterans benefits or payments made by private insurance, don't affect your SSDI benefit amounts.
Every year, everyone's Social Security benefits are recalculated to adjust to the increasing cost of living. How much of an increase depends on the annual COLA amount for SSDI, which is determined by increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
Updated January 18, 2024