A:

The average Social Security disability benefit amount for a recipient of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in 2016 is $1,166 per month, but a beneficiary can receive either less than this or up to $2,639. These benefits are based on average lifetime earnings, not on household income or how severe the individual's disability is. The total amount a disabled worker and his or her family can receive is about 150% to 180% of the disabled worker's benefit. Eligible family members can include a spouse, divorced spouse, children, a disabled child and/or an adult child disabled before age 22.

What Are Social Security Disability Benefits?

Social Security disability benefits come from payroll deductions made into FICA, which funnels the monies to pay out Social Security benefits, such as retirement, spousal and survivors' benefits (FICA also funds Medicare). Excess funding goes to the Disability Insurance Trust Fund, one of two Social Security trust funds that invest money above the amount needed for day-to-day operations of these programs.

According to the Social Security website, to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have worked long enough in jobs covered by Social Security. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which are earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. Then, you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of disability.

Social Security Disability Insurance should not be confused with Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, which pays benefits to those who have financial need regardless of their work history.

While there are some conditions the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers so severe they automatically render an applicant disabled, many conditions require careful screening. If an applicant's condition is not on the SSA pre-approved list eligible for the Compassionate Allowances Program, then the SSA must determine if the condition prevents the applicant from performing his previous job. If so, the next step is to determine that it also prevents adjustment to another kind of work, considering the applicant's age, education, skills and medical condition. In addition, qualifying conditions must be expected to last at least one year or result in death.

For more information, see What's the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

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