Person calculating figures.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) awards Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits to eligible disabled individuals in the United States. These monthly benefits are only awarded to individuals who are unable to work as a result of their disability. Because they are unable to work and earn an income, recipients typically rely on SSDI benefits to make ends meet.

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If you are applying for SSDI benefits, it’s important to understand how much you should expect to receive. How are SSDI benefits calculated? Will your monthly SSDI benefits ever increase in the future? How can a Tampa Social Security disability attorney help? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and more.

How Are SSDI Benefits Calculated?

If you are in the process of applying for SSDI benefits, you may be wondering how much you will receive if your application is approved. The SSDI benefit rate will vary on a case-by-case basis, which is why it’s hard to answer this question.

The SSA uses a complex formula to calculate SSDI benefits. The amount you will receive will depend on how much income you have paid Social Security taxes on throughout your work history. This income is referred to as “covered earnings.”

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Your average covered earnings is called your average indexed monthly earnings, or AIME. The SSA applies a specific formula to your AIME to determine your primary insurance amount, or PIA.

The formula is adjusted each year. But in 2020, your PIA is calculated by taking:

  • 90% of the first $960 of your AIME, plus
  • 32% of your AIME between $960 to $5,785, plus
  • 15% of your AIME over $5,785.

Adding these three values together equals your PIA, which is the base rate that the SSA uses to establish your SSDI benefit amount.

The average benefit rate in 2020 is $1,238 per month. The benefit rate may vary from person-to-person, but it will not go above the maximum limit, which in 2020 is $3,011 per month.

Will Your SSDI Benefits Change Over Time?

The simple answer to this question is yes, your benefits will change over time.

Every year, the SSA analyzes the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine how much the cost of living has increased over the last 12 months. This information is used to determine the annual cost of living adjustment, which is also known as COLA, for SSDI benefits.

What does this mean? To put it simply, your SSDI benefits will increase every year to account for the increase in the cost of living in this country. But you shouldn’t expect a significant change in your monthly benefits because the typical cost of living adjustment is fairly small.

For example, the SSA announced that SSDI benefits will increase by 1.3% in 2021. This only raises the average SSDI monthly benefit by about $20, to $1,258.

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This change will take effect in January 2021 for SSDI benefits. If you are currently receiving SSDI benefits, you should be notified via mail about the change sometime in December. You should receive this communication regarding the annual cost of living increase every year so you know what to expect once the change takes effect in January of the next year.

But it’s important to note that the change will take effect in December 2020 for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients. The cost of living adjustment will increase SSI benefits to $794 per month for individuals and $1,191 per month for couples.

Does the Substantial Gainful Activity Rate Change?

You are only eligible for SSDI benefits if your disability prevents you from performing substantial gainful activity. In other words, you will not be approved for these benefits if you are still able to perform a significant amount of work despite your mental or physical disability.

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The SSA sets a monthly income limit to determine what work is considered substantial gainful activity and what is not. Every year, this monthly income limit is adjusted to account for the change in the cost of living. In fact, the adjustment percentage is exactly the same for the substantial gainful activity rate and the benefit rate.

For example, the substantial gainful activity rate is $1,260 for non-blind individuals in 2020. This means if you are able to perform work that brings in more than $1,260 per month, you are not considered disabled or entitled to SSDI benefits. But in 2021, this substantial gainful activity rate will increase by 1.3% to $1,310 per month. So in 2021, you must earn less than $1,310 per month in order to qualify for SSDI benefits.

If you are already receiving SSDI benefits, it’s important to be familiar with the substantial gainful activity rate. Why? If you start to perform work that brings in more than the monthly income limit, you could lose your SSDI benefits since the SSA may no longer consider you disabled.

However, the SSA does allow you to enter a trial work period where you can earn over the substantial gainful activity rate without losing your benefits. If you are interested in entering a trial work period, it’s best to talk to an attorney about your options.

Seek Legal Representation From An Experienced SSDI Attorney Today

If you are unable to work as a result of a mental or physical disability, it’s in your best interest to seek legal representation from the skilled SSDI attorneys at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett right away. Let our team of experienced attorneys guide you through the entire process of applying for Social Security disability benefits. We will stand by your side, protect your rights, and aggressively fight for the disability benefits you need and deserve.

Contact our law office as soon as possible to schedule a free consultation regarding your SSDI case.

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