If you are considering applying for social security disability benefits, or if you are waiting for a decision, you’ve probably wondered how much social security disability pays. The Social Security Disability Benefit amount beneficiaries can expect to receive are somewhere between $700 and $1,700 per month. In 2018, the average disability check was $1,197; the maximum monthly social security benefit was $2,788.

The reality is a bit more complicated. The amount of benefits an SSD beneficiary receives has nothing to do with the type or severity of the disability, and everything to do with a complicated formula that uses the recipient’s covered earnings – how much of their lifetime income was subject to Social Security tax – as the starting point. Each disability check, then, is unique and tailored to the individual’s earnings history.

Calculating SSD benefits

When determining the monthly SSD benefit, the SSA first calculates the applicant’s average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). The AIME adjusts the applicant’s annual earnings from age 21 through two calendar years before the onset of disability to present day wage levels (i.e., adjusts them for inflation). The year of disability onset and the year immediately prior are not adjusted. The annual earnings, minus the lowest five years, are averaged and then divided by the number of months in the years averaged. For example, if the applicant worked 30 years, the average annual earnings would be divided by 360 (30 years multiplied by 12 months).

The AIME is then used to determine the recipient’s primary insurance amount (PIA), which is the monthly benefit a recipient would receive if he elected to take social security retirement benefits at his normal retirement age. The PIA is the sum of three “bend points” – fixed percentages of different income thresholds. The bend points for 2018 are as follows:

  • 90-percent of the first $895 of the applicant’s AIME, PLUS;
  • 32-percent of the applicant’s AIME over $895 and less than or equal to $5,397, PLUS;
  • 15-percent of the applicant’s AIME greater than $5,397

These bend points change annually, and the SSA uses bend points for the year the applicant became disabled, even if was years before he applied for SSD benefits.

Online benefit calculator

Fortunately, the SSA makes estimating your monthly SSD benefit easy by providing an online calculator that pulls in your lifetime annual earnings. To access it, you’ll need to create a “my Social Security account” by providing your name, social security number, and mailing address, and answering several questions to confirm your identity. Once created, you’ll be able to view your lifetime annual earnings, and view estimates of your social security retirement, social security disability, and survivor benefits.