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How Are SSDI Payments Calculated?

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
March 13, 2023  ·  5 min read
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In 2023, the maximum amount you can earn from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is $3,627 per month. That’s a nice sum, but most people won’t get that much. The average SSDI benefit is only about $1,358.

Calculating how much you’ll earn means figuring out your primary insurance amount (PIA), which depends on how much you’ve paid into Social Security from previous paycheck withholdings. So, how much can you expect? Let’s walk through the calculation.

The fastest way to check your SSDI payment amount

Before we get into any numbers, there’s an easy way to see exactly how much you’ll get from SSDI — no calculator required.

Create a free mySocialSecurity account and the SSA will tell you precisely how much you can expect to get from SSDI each month. (If you plan to apply for SSDI, you’ll need to make an account anyway.)

Setting up your account is kind of a pain — the process takes about 15 minutes and you'll need to verify your identity by entering your personal information and by using facial recognition that requires a camera. But it’s completely free and your information is secure.

With an SSA account you’ll also be able to see your income history, how many work credits you have, and your retirement benefits status. If there are any errors in your record, you can also correct them to potentially increase your SSDI benefit.

How is SSDI calculated?

It all starts with the Social Security Administration (SSA) calculating your average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). Your AIME is based on how much you’ve earned and how much Social Security tax you’ve paid while you were working. Your AIME allows the SSA to determine your primary insurance amount, or PIA. Your benefits amount is based on your PIA.

Calculate your AIME

To start calculating your average indexed monthly earnings, the SSA first indexes your wages. This essentially means they adjust them to reflect how the cost of living has changed over the years.

The SSA looks at up to 35 years of your wages, but $100 earned 20 years ago is worth more than $100 today because of inflation. Indexing your earnings allows the SSA to ensure that your SSDI benefit helps you maintain the same quality of life you have in today’s economy.

Next, the SSA will average your indexed earnings for up to 35 years of your work history. The good news is that the SSA chooses your highest-earning years. So if you worked and paid into Social Security for 40 years, they’ll choose the 35 years that your earnings were highest to calculate your AIME.

Once they come up with your AIME, they calculate your primary insurance amount (PIA).

Calculate your PIA

Your primary insurance amount is determined by breaking your AIME into three separate slices. In 2023, the first slice covers your first $1,115 of earnings. The second covers earnings between $1,115 and $6,721. The third slice accounts for earnings above $6,721. (The dollar cut-offs for those slices generally increase annually.)

The PIA formula says that your 2023 monthly SSDI benefit is worth:

  • 90% of the first slice (your first $1,115 of AIME) PLUS
  • 32% of the second slice (any AIME between $1,116 and $6,721) PLUS
  • 15% of the third slice (any AIME over $6,721)

The SSA rounds down to the next-lowest $0.10 multiple. So if your PIA calculation comes out to $1,358.32, your benefit check would be rounded down to $1,358.30.

Example SSDI calculation

The math gets a little complicated, so let’s look at an example. Let’s say the SSA calculated your average indexed monthly earnings at $5,000. Breaking that into slices, you can see that your SSDI check will be worth:

  • 90% of the first $1,115, or $1,003.50 PLUS
  • 32% of $3,885 (your $5,000 AIME – the $1,115 in the first slice), or $1,243.20
  • The 15% slice isn’t applicable because your AIME wasn’t more than $6,721

That would bring your monthly check from SSDI to $2,246.70 ($1,003.50 from the first slice + $1,243.20 from the second).

Average SSDI payments by state

The SSA is a federal organization so the calculations above apply no matter where you live in the country. That said, because average salaries and hourly wages vary based on location, knowing what people are getting in your home state can help you get a feel for what to expect.

The average monthly SSDI check was $1,358.30 at the end of 2022 and you can find the average for your home state below.


Average monthly SSDI payment

















District of Columbia










































New Hampshire


New Jersey


New Mexico


New York


North Carolina


North Dakota










Rhode Island


South Carolina


South Dakota














West Virginia






For a complete breakdown of how much SSDI and SSI are worth in your area, read our state-by-state guide to disability benefits.

How to increase your SSDI payment

Unfortunately, the only way to increase your SSDI payment is to increase your AIME, which means working at least a year with higher income to figure into your average earnings. If you’re thinking about applying for disability, that’s probably not realistic for you.

You can take steps to make sure you’re getting as much as possible, though. In your mySocialSecurity account, go over your earnings history. If you see any years that are missing or underreported, fixing the mistake with the SSA would increase your AIME and your SSDI payment.

Types of income that lower your SSDI payment

Most people don’t need to worry about this, but there are a few types of income that could decrease your SSDI check.

  • Workers’ compensation: It's possible to qualify for SSDI on workers’ comp. In total, your SSDI and workers’ compensation payments can’t equal more than 80% of your income from your last job. So if you do qualify for both, the SSA will offset your SSDI payments based on your workers’ compensation amount.
  • State disability benefits: Only California, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island offer short-term disability programs. You can still get SSDI but while you're receiving the state payments, you will get a reduced SSDI payment.
  • Other government pensions: If you pay into a state pension instead of Social Security, for example, it can reduce what you’re eligible for when it comes to SSDI.

Will my SSDI payments ever change?

Yes. In fact, they’ll most likely automatically increase each year. The SSA modifies SSDI payments annually based on a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). The 2023 COLA means an 8.7% bump to peoples’ checks.

You don’t need to do anything to see that increase. Your check should simply go up after the COLA takes place each year. The annual increase also doesn’t affect your usual SSDI payment schedule.

How is SSDI back pay calculated?

The SSDI application is a lengthy process, and you do get paid for the time you spend waiting for a decision on your claim. That back pay is worth the same monthly amount. The only difference is that you get one lump sum for all the months you spend awaiting a decision (minus five months, which the SSA believes is an acceptable processing time).

Can you get SSDI and SSI at the same time?

Yes, in certain cases. However, the amount of your SSDI payment reduces the SSI payment you’re eligible to receive. In most cases, someone who qualifies for SSDI will get a big enough payment that they’re ineligible for SSI.

Learn more about who can get SSI and SSDI at the same time.

How to apply for SSDI and win benefits

While SSDI offers a nice monthly payment, getting approved isn’t an easy or quick process. Be prepared to navigate the multi-step application process. Most applicants have to go through a couple of rounds of appeals and some people may need to apply multiple times.

The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. Professional help from a disability lawyer increases your chances of winning by three times. To quickly find out if you’re eligible for SSDI and to get connected to legal support (if you want it), take our free 2-minute disability quiz.

Triple your chances of getting approved. Get matched with a top disability lawyer today.

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Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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