Both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) vary in how much they pay. Several factors determine the amount you receive from SSDI or SSI, including your work history, total income, and total assets. But SSSI generally does not pay more than SSDI. That is because, as of 2018, the maximum monthly benefit amount for SSDI is $2,788. For SSI, it is $750 for a single person and $1,125 for a couple.
While SSI does not pay more than SSDI, you normally do not get to choose between the two. Based on your financial situation, you more than likely will qualify for either one program or the other.
The Average Amount SSDI Pays
That said, most SSDI recipients do not receive the maximum benefit or anything close to it. The average SSDI award is shy of $1,200 per month—less than half of the SSDI maximum but still much higher than the SSI maximum.
How Is My Benefit Amount Calculated for SSDI and SSI?
The SSA administers benefits for both SSDI and SSI. Your Social Security disability benefits are calculated by the SSA using formulas to calculate award levels. The SSDI formulates your work history and how much you have paid into the Social Security system via your payroll taxes to calculate the award. It is complex and esoteric. The SSI formula is much simpler, starting from the maximum benefit amount and then subtracting income you collect from other sources.
Determining SSDI Benefit Amounts
To determine how much you are eligible to receive in benefits, SSDI uses a formula that assigns work credits based on your earnings for each year that you worked. As of 2018, you earn one credit for each $1,320 of taxable income per year. The big catch is you can earn only four credits per year. Once your income passes $5,280 for the year, you stop earning credits. A person who pulls in $500,000 and is easily a one-percenter racks up no more credits than a person who makes $6,000 a year and is well under the poverty line.
How Many Credits Do You Need for SSDI?
To qualify for SSDI, you typically need 40 credits, with 20 earned during the last five years. If you are young, you might be eligible with fewer credits. The more credits you have, the higher your benefit amount. But since you are so limited on how many credits you can pick up per year, the only way to accumulate a lot of credits is to work a lot of years. Therefore, a person who worked 30 years making $30,000 a year before becoming disabled would be eligible for a higher benefit than a person who worked 10 years making $300,000 a year.
Determining SSI Benefit Amounts
The SSI formula is much simpler. It starts with the maximum benefit amount—$750 for a single applicant, $1,125 for a couple. It then subtracts your countable income from other sources. Countable means the income that SSI requires you to include toward the program’s maximum. You can exclude parts of your income, including fixed amounts of earned and unearned income.
Once SSI determines your countable income (by subtracting that which you are permitted to exclude), it then subtracts this amount from the maximum benefit. The result is how much you receive in monthly compensation.
Example of How SSI Benefits Work
Here is an example. You are single, and you bring in $800 a month—$300 from a part-time job and $500 from other government benefits. After reviewing your financials, SSI lets you exclude $200 of your earned income from work and $300 of your unearned income from the government. That leaves you with $300 of countable income. Since you are single, the maximum SSI benefit is $750. This is the amount from which your countable income is subtracted, leaving you with a monthly benefit of $450.
Does SSI Have Any Benefits Over SSDI?
It is a bit of a waste of time to compare SSDI and SSI side by side because you do not get to select a disability program based on your personal preferences. You are limited to the program you qualify for, and it is usually one or the other (though occasionally it can be both).
That said, perhaps the biggest benefit of SSI is that you get free health care through Medicaid and get it right away. SSDI usually comes with Medicare eligibility, but Medicare costs a small monthly fee, plus if you become eligible through SSDI, there is a five-month waiting period.
For a Free Social Security Disability Case Evaluation, Call 865-566-0800 Today
If you have questions about applying for Social Security disability, the attorneys at the Disability Advantage Group, want to help. Our dedicated team has a long track record of helping our clients get the benefits they deserve. To schedule a free case evaluation, call our office at 865-566-0800.