If you’ve been comparing notes with friends, and you’ve found out their disability check is higher than yours, maybe that realization has left you scratching your head as to why.
Here are some tips on how the Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates your check and what you can do to maximize your benefit.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD) is based on the amount of income you’ve earned (and the taxes you’ve paid in) over your entire work history. The longer you work and the more you pay in, the more you get out in the form of a disability check. For comparisons, in 2016, SSD paid on average $1,116. If you need to check your SSA earnings history, you can do this online at www.ssa.gov/mystatement/.
Your disability check is calculated on your individual earnings. In other words, you can’t receive more if you support a disabled spouse. Your spouse can collect a spousal benefit disability check calculated based on the other spouse’s earnings. Early benefits can be collected at age 62 (a decreased penalty amount) or a full benefit when the spouse turns 66. This full benefit generally amounts to about half of what the worker’s benefit is. Upon the death of anyone who is eligible for SSD, the spouse can collect survivor benefits. This particular benefit can be collected as early as age 50 (at a reduced rate of about 70 percent) or the full benefit at age 66 can be collected.
While it takes an illness to initially qualify for SSD, the illnesses you have don’t dictate the monetary amount of your disability check. You can’t get a higher disability check if you have more illnesses. Your earnings prior to your disability dictate your monthly disability check. The quantity of illnesses you have makes no difference.
The SSA is also helping a bit too in 2017 by making a long overdue Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to keep up with rising inflation. It’s a slight increase, but every little bit helps. A disability check of $1000 will likely see about a $60 increase.
If your disability check is from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) low income program, there is very little you can do to change that set amount, since SSI is not based on past income. This disability benefit is around $600 to $700 per month (it varies by state). This is significantly less than SSD checks pay.
In summary, the best thing you can do is maximize your earnings while you’re healthy. That way, you’ll ensure a higher disability check if you ever become disabled.