Whether you’ve already applied for disability benefits or are still planning to file for one, you’ve probably thought about your disability check amount. After all, your lifestyle for the next few years hinges on your disability payments – especially if you can’t work.
Unlike workers compensation, your disability benefits won’t depend on the severity of your condition. Nor will it be based on your average weekly wage.
Instead, the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a complicated formula to calculate your disability check amount. That’s why disability payments tend to vary widely for each individual.
To determine how much you can expect, you first need to understand how your benefits are calculated.
How Disability Benefits Are Calculated
As mentioned, the SSA uses a complicated formula to calculate disability benefits. It takes into account how long you’ve worked and how much you’ve paid to social security. In SSA parlance, this is known as covered earnings.
In a nutshell, your covered earnings are your earnings from every job you’ve had that pays social security taxes. Your average covered earnings for a certain period of time are called Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME).
The SSA then applies a formula to your AIME to determine your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA). The maximum disability benefit amount you can receive will depend on your PIA.
For instance, if your PIA is $3,000, it means you can receive up to $3,000 in SSDI benefits each month. But of course, this still depends on whether or not you have other sources of income. If you do, the SSA will reduce your benefits.
However, the formula for calculating PIA is pretty complex. The percentages also tend to change per year. To get a more detailed estimate of your benefits, you can refer to the SSA’s online calculator.
Average SSDI Payment for 2022
According to the SSA, the average SSDI payment for 2022 is $1,358. Though most beneficiaries receive less than that. Most people receive anywhere from $800 to $2,000.
So if you’re looking for a rough estimate of your monthly disability check amount, you can refer to these figures. In some states, you may also be eligible for additional benefits to augment your SSDI check.
How to Make the Most Out of Your Disability Check
Living off your Social Security Disability Benefits can be challenging. Your disability check may provide for basic necessities, but it’s not enough to make ends meet. This is especially true if your disability prevents you from going back to work or seeking employment.
But, all is not lost yet. With the right mindset, grit, and determination, you can make it work. To help you out, we’ve compiled these tips on how to make the most out of your meager disability check.
1. Create a Budget and Stick to It
The first rule to making ends meet with limited resources is creating a budget and sticking to it.
Draw up a list of all your fixed and non-fixed expenses for the month. Calculate your fixed expenses or things that can’t be taken out of the budget. This includes rent, medications, utilities, and child support payments (if any).
Next, think of the things you can do without. The most obvious examples are restaurant meals, lottery tickets, and the like. Then strike these items off your budget.
List an amount next to each item. This is how much you should only spend on them. With self-discipline, sticking to this budget won’t be that hard.
2. Apply for Additional Benefits
Most people think that receiving additional benefits can affect their social security disability benefits. This is absolutely not true.
In addition to the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the SSA also offers a Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Depending on your case, you may be qualified for the latter too. You can also avail of food stamps or medical assistance programs.
Apart from you, members of your family may also be eligible for auxiliary benefits.
3. Look for Ways to Make Extra Income
Another common misconception among SSDI beneficiaries is that they can’t earn any income else their disability benefits will stop. Again, this is not necessarily true.
You can still receive disability benefits if your income doesn’t exceed a certain amount per month. So, try to look for ways to make extra income as much as you can. You can do errands for neighbors, sell cookies, or babysit for a few hours. Remember, every dollar you earn counts.
4. Reduce Your Housing Expenses
If you’re living in an urban area, your most significant monthly expense will be rent. It can take up more than half of your disability check. To save up on rent, consider moving to an income-based housing unit. Some apartments charge rent based on your Social Security Disability income. Most of the time, their rates are much lower than the prevailing market prices.
5. Collect Your Workers Compensation
Getting your disability benefits doesn’t mean you can’t anymore claim workers’ compensation. Depending on your state’s law, it is possible to receive both workers’ comp and SSDI benefits at the same time.
In Florida, you can receive both simultaneously as long as it won’t exceed 80% of your average current earnings.
If your employer or insurance company denies your workers comp claim, an experienced workers compensation lawyer like Victor Malca can help you.
6. Check If You’re Qualified for Energy Assistance
Energy assistance is an annual benefit given to defray your energy cost for the whole year. People who qualify for SSI and food stamps will most likely qualify for energy assistance. Inform your energy provider that you’re on social security disability benefits, so you’ll know what energy assistance programs are available for you.
7. Avail of School Meal Programs
If you have children still in school, free or reduced meal programs are a great help. Some schools also provide both breakfast and lunch for children from low-income families. Check if there are schools or programs like this in your area.
8. Look Into Your State’s Welfare Programs
Aside from federal government programs, some states also offer welfare programs for the disabled.
In Florida, you can avail of state welfare programs such as:
- Temporary Cash Assistance Program. This assistance is for families with children aged below 18. They must meet technical, income, and asset requirements of standard living. See complete TCA requirements here.
- Optional State Supplementation (OSS) Program. This program provides monthly support payments to disabled individuals and the elderly who are living in non-institutional and assisted living facilities and care homes. The same also applies to those admitted to mental health facilities.
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program. What sets this program apart is that it requires ongoing work participation from the beneficiaries. SSI beneficiaries are, however, exempted from this requirement.
9. Collect Coupons
Coupons can save you a significant amount of grocery money each month. It’s a great way to reduce your expenses without sacrificing your quality of life. So start clipping as many coupons as you can, and you’ll be surprised at how much you can save.
10. Ask for Medicine Samples
Medication is one of the most significant financial burdens for most SSDI beneficiaries. But you can save on prescriptions by asking for medicine samples from your doctor. Most doctors are more than willing to help if you inform them of your predicament.
11. Seek Help From Charities and NGOs
Many charities and NGOs offer assistance to struggling families. Charitable organizations like the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities and Jewish Family Services offer rent assistance programs. You can also approach local NGOs to know how they can help you.
How Long Can You Stay on Social Security Disability?
They say that nothing is permanent. The same holds true for social security disability benefits.
Once you are well enough to go back to work, your disability benefits will stop. Or if your medical condition is permanent, your SSDI will automatically convert to retirement benefits when you turn 65.
But your disability checks won’t stop coming just because you found work. Your benefits will only stop if your income will go beyond the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) amount.
If you have some questions about your benefits, you need to seek advice from an experienced compensation attorney. It’s important to make sure that you will get all the benefits that you deserve.
VICTOR MALCA – Florida Workers Compensation & Social Security Disability Attorney
Victor Malca P.A. has over 27 years of litigation experience in Workers Compensation and Social Security Disability lawsuits. His experience and continued success when fighting for his clients puts him among the most trusted workers’ compensation attorney’s in Florida. He specializes in representing injured workers on compensation benefit cases and disabled individuals claiming lost social security disability benefits.
Book a free consultation today. Our unwavering advocacy for employee rights and privileges are recognized by our past clients across South Florida.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a writer and editor for the Victor Malca Law P.A. website and blog. She enjoys helping people in need with questions about social security disability and workers compensation law. She has a passion for helping those in need and the elderly with accurate legal information that can make a positive difference in their lives.