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Calculating Your Social Security Disability Payment

Last updated: November 19, 2023

Have you ever wondered how is disability calculated? Managing your finances better can be easier if you know how to calculate your Social Security disability payment. The amount of your disability benefits will depend on your average lifetime earnings before you become disabled.

Payments from other sources can also be taken into the equation, although disability severity is not considered. Different calculations are used depending on whether you receive SSDI or SSI benefits.

How Is Disability Payment Calculated?

After filing for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) coverage, an individual’s payment will be determined by their average earnings before they become disabled. Those who have paid more taxes on their wages are better compensated when it comes to insurance payments. Your household income or the severity of your disability does not matter if you qualify for disability benefits. 

Averaged Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) is calculated based on up to 35 years of working experience. By adding the highest indexed earnings over the years and dividing them by the number of months for those years, the Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates the retirement benefit. This average is then rounded down to find your AIME.

In addition to your average index monthly earnings, SSDI pays out benefits based on your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA).

You receive your benefits based on your PIA. Each year, it changes to reflect the national average wage index by adding the following specific percentages of your AIME and “bend points,” or dollar amounts.

You receive 90% of the earnings at the first bend point, 32% at the second bend point, and 15% at the third bend point. According to SSDI data from 2022, the average monthly benefit is $1,657. For the highest earners, the monthly benefit is $4,194.

Social Security offers a tool that lets you calculate your expected payment. Create an account and see your Social Security covered earnings for every year, as well as the amount you will receive if approved for SSDI.

The SSA implemented Trial Work Period (TWP) to motivate people to return to work if they feel capable of doing so for over 60 months, although not necessarily consecutively. Your benefits will not be affected if you earn an unlimited amount for nine months within this period.

Your Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) begins when your TWP is finished. As long as you remain disabled and your earnings do not exceed the substantial gainful activity (SGA) threshold, you are entitled to receive your full monthly benefit for 36 months.

Every year, the threshold for SGA changes according to the poverty level for an individual. As of 2022, the threshold is $1,350.

How SSI Payments Are Calculated

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI), as opposed to SSDI, is a need-based program. The SSDI program offers cash compensation for low-income, low-asset, and insufficient work-credit applicants. A concurrent claim occurs when an individual who receives meager SSDI benefits also receives SSI benefits.

Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) is the basis for calculating SSI payments. The following are the Federal Benefit Rates for the year 2022: 

  • $841 for an eligible individual
  • $1,261 for an eligible individual with a qualifying spouse
  • $421 for an essential person

The amount of benefits you receive is reduced by any additional income you have, such as money you earn from odd jobs.


An annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) accounts for SSDI and SSI recipients' increased expenses each year. Prices are adjusted based on increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). For example, SSDI and SSI recipients will receive a 5.9% COLA for 2022.


SSDI and SSI benefits provide a crucial economic lifeline for individuals who cannot work due to physical or mental disabilities. If you are applying for disability benefits, you should speak with an experienced Social Security disability attorney as soon as possible. They can check the status of your disability claim, ensuring that your application explains your condition well and provides adequate evidence of your eligibility.

Are you interested in learning more about the various options and programs that help people with disabilities? Read more of Disability Help’s resources on our website!

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Chloe Powers
Chloe works with policymakers on behalf of Disability Help to support their work at a strategic level, ensuring the conditions are in place for creative individuals and organizations to grow, reach their potential and effect relevant, sustainable change.
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