Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is an important program that works under the umbrella of the Social Security Administration (SSA). Many recipients often wonder whether their SSDI payment amount fluctuates depending on the nature or severity of their disability. Does payments change according to the disability?
To comprehend if the SSDI payments change based on the disability, let’s first (and quick) understand how the SSA calculates these benefits. The entity employs a complex formula that takes various factors into account, such as your work history, earnings, and the amount you’ve contributed to the Social Security system through payroll taxes.
SSDI Benefits and How Disabilities Impacts on Payments
The SSA assesses your past employment and calculates your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME). This calculation involves indexing your past earnings to account for inflation. The higher your AIME, the larger your SSDI payment is likely to be.
Now, there’s the Social Security taxes: did you pay all your taxes on time? Well, you’re set to claim your payments. Generally, you need to have accumulated a certain number of work credits to qualify. The exact number of credits required depends on your age and the duration of your disability.
Now, let’s address the question at the heart of this article: Does the severity or type of disability impact SSDI payments? The answer is no. SSDI payments are not based on the specific disability you have or its severity. Instead, they are primarily determined by your work history, earnings, and contributions to the Social Security system.
What is Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME)?
Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) is a calculation used to determine an individual’s Social Security benefits. It takes into account the 35 highest-earning years of an individual’s work history, indexing these years for wage growth, and averages them to produce a monthly figure. This approximates an individual’s lifetime earnings based on today’s wage levels.
To calculate AIME, the Social Security Administration (SSA) first adjusts or “indexes” a worker’s earnings to reflect the change in general wage levels that occurred during the worker’s years of employment. This ensures that a worker’s future benefits reflect the general rise in living standards during their working lifetime. Up to 35 years of earnings are needed to compute AIME. The years with the highest indexed earnings are selected, summed, and then divided by the total number of months in those years. The result is then rounded down to the next lower dollar amount.
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to calculate AIME:
- List Your Earnings Each Year: Start with a list of your earnings each year. Only earnings below a specified annual limit, called the contribution and benefit base, are included.
- Adjust Each Year of Earnings for Inflation: Social Security uses a two-step process called wage indexing to adjust earnings history for inflation. Wages are indexed to the average wages for the year someone turns 60. For each year, divide average wages of the indexing year by average wages for the year being indexed. Then, multiply included earnings by this number.
- Calculate the Monthly Average: The Social Security benefits calculation uses the highest 35 years of someone’s earnings to calculate their average monthly earnings. If someone doesn’t have 35 years of earnings, a zero will be used in the calculation, which will lower the average. Total the highest 35 years of indexed earnings and divide this total by 420 (the number of months in a 35-year work history). The result is a person’s AIME.
Once AIME is determined, it is then used to calculate the Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), which is the basis for the benefits paid to an individual.
Medical Evidence and Disability Determination for SSDI Payments
If you’re looking forward to qualify for SSDI benefits, you must provide medical evidence that supports your disability claim. The SSA evaluates this evidence to determine whether your condition meets their criteria for disability and you could claim the money. While the nature of your disability matters in the sense that it must meet SSA’s definition of disability, it does not affect the payment amount.
Qualifying disabilities accepted by the SSA are listed in the Blue Book. This is a comprehensive list of conditions that meet the criteria. When reviewing your application for Social Security disability benefits, the SSA will refer to the list of qualifying conditions outlined in the Blue Book.
The qualifying conditions include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Musculoskeletal Disorders: Conditions of the spine or the upper or lower extremities that impact the functioning of the musculoskeletal system.
- Special Senses: Abnormalities of the eye that cause a loss of vision.
- Respiratory Disorders: Restriction or obstruction of the lungs that impedes normal breathing.
- Cardiovascular System: Any medical condition that negatively impacts the functioning of the heart or the circulatory system.
- Digestive System: Complications of the digestive system that undermine the performance of other systems of the body.
- Genitourinary Disorders: Medical conditions that result in chronic kidney disease.
- Hematological Disorders: Medical conditions that disrupt the development of red and white blood cells, as well as platelets and clotting-factor proteins.
- Skin Disorders: Any pathology, whether hereditary, congenital, or acquired through pathological processes, that impedes the development of healthy skin.
- Endocrine Conditions: A disorder that produces a hormonal imbalance that generates too much or too little of a specific hormone.
- Neurological Disorders: Those that cause the deterioration of motor function and communication skills that can indicate the presence of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
- Mental Disorders: This category is arranged into 11 sub-categories that include autism, bipolar, and depression disorders.
- Cancer: Comprehends all types of cancers, except those related to HIV infection.
- Immune System Disorders: Pathology of one or more components on the immune system.