What will Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pay?
There’s no straightforward, “one-size-fits-all” answer.
Put most simply:
- The most you can get on SSI is $841 per month.
- The most you can get on SSDI is around $3300 per month.
But the size of your actual check will vary—depending on the program, your work history, and your other income and assets. In this article, we’ll discuss what determines your specific SSI or SSDI amount and what you can expect if you apply and receive disability benefits.
💡While this article previews the basics of benefit payments, your lawyer will be your best resource for discussing your potential disability amount. Reach out to Atticus for free legal advice or to be matched with a lawyer that’s right for your case.
Which pays more, SSI or SSDI?
Eligibility for SSI is based on a person’s financial need. This program provides financial support for people with limited income and resources, meaning they can receive payment to help support basic needs, such as food and shelter, up to a certain cap.
SSDI eligibility is based on a person’s work history. How much you receive depends on how much you have made (and how much you’ve paid in taxes) while you were employed. If you have worked a lot (generally five out of the last ten years), it may be worth your while to make this claim. If not, you will not be eligible, or you will be eligible for only a small amount.
The average SSDI recipient makes between $800 and $1800, while the maximum any SSI recipient can make is $841.
Can I draw both?
Yes, you can draw both SSI and SSDI benefits. Here is the value of this strategy:
- If you qualify for a small SSDI amount, you can supplement your income with SSI. This might be a good option for people who have a low-paying work history. While the process to apply for both SSDI and SSI is the same, you may get healthcare more quickly with SSI. There is a 29-month waiting period to get Medicare on SSDI but no waiting period for Medicaid on SSI.
How do they determine how much SSDI You Get?
In most jobs, Social Security is automatically withheld from your paycheck each month. How much you’ve historically “paid in” (called your “covered earnings”) determines how much you’ll receive.
This gets complicated quickly. Your “covered earnings” are averaged over a period of time and adjusted for historical wage growth. It’s then plugged into a “primary insurance amount” formula—progressively weighted to provide proportionally higher benefits to lower earners.
The best way to estimate your SSDI monthly benefit is to create a mySocialSecurity account and use their benefits calculator. Visit SSA.gov. Click on "mySocialSecurity" and create an account using your Social Security number. Your home page will include details about your work eligibility for SSDI and your estimated payment amount.
Can I Supplement my SSDI Income with Work?
Disability benefits can be suspended or terminated if a person is found to be making more than $1350 per month from working. For SSDI, passive income (like being a landlord or owning stocks) doesn’t jeopardize your benefits.
Once you are on disability, there may come a time when you can start work again. The Ticket to Work program offers a work incentive that allows you to test your ability to go back to work. During this time, you will still receive your disability benefits.
If you want to take on this incentive, report it to your SSA representative.
How is SSI Calculated?
SSI is needs-based; even if you have never worked or paid into social security, you can still get this benefit. Still, there are strict income and asset requirements to qualify. To be eligible, you must have less than $2,000 in assets and make less than $841/month income from any source (including passive income).
The federal amounts for 2022 are $841 a month for an eligible individual. Any other income you have is subtracted from that amount to determine your total payment.
For example, if you’re making $200 a month from work, stocks, or any other income source, your check will be $841 - $200 or $641. If you receive food stamps, your SSI check will be $841 minus the value of your food stamp benefit.
What counts as sources of income?
Not all income and assets have to be subtracted. Some of them don’t count against these limits. Social Security exempts the value of your home, the land it sits on, and your first car.
Income is anything else you receive during the month that meets your basic needs (shelter, food).
Here are some things that count:
- Bank accounts
- Side jobs
- Food stamps
- Living rent-free
To understand what counts fully and what counts to a lesser degree, consider the following:
- Child support — only a portion of child support is counted, as it’s not all your money, but your child’s.
- To qualify, you can have a car and a house.
You can find further information on this on the government website.
Myths about SSI: Things that don’t influence your payments
There are some common myths about SSI that aren’t true!
Here are some of them busted:
- Being “more disabled” doesn’t get you more money. This program is designed to supplement a person's basic needs. The extent to which you are disabled is irrelevant to your benefit amount.
- SSI is not about how much you have worked. You can qualify as long as you are disabled and don’t exceed the income and asset limits.
- It doesn’t discourage a person from working — in fact, both the SSI and SSDI programs have incentives to promote work.
What will get me the best benefit payout: SSI, SSDI, or both?
Generally speaking, if you have the work eligibility for SSDI—it usually gets you better healthcare (Medicare vs. Medicaid) and a larger benefit check month over month. However, if you meet the income limitations for SSI, applying for both programs could ensure you get some healthcare more quickly.
SSI may be your best option if you haven’t worked or worked much in the last ten years.
In either case, you have a better chance of winning benefits and a smoother time navigating the process if you work with a lawyer. Atticus gives free legal advice to get you started and can ultimately match you with the right attorney for your case. Begin today.