In 2022, the estimated average Social Security disability benefit for a disabled worker receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is $1,358 per month, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). That figure is expected to go up to $1,483 in 2023. These benefits are based on average lifetime earnings, not on household income or the severity of an individual’s disability.
If you’ve kept your annual Social Security statement, you can find what you are likely to receive in the Estimated Benefits section. The total amount that a disabled worker and their family can receive is about 150% to 180% of the disabled worker’s benefit. Eligible family members can include a spouse, divorced spouse, child, disabled child, and/or an adult child disabled before age 22.
The estimated average monthly Social Security benefits payable to a disabled worker, their spouse, and one or more children in 2023 is $2,616, which is an increase from the approximate benefit of $2,383 in 2022. These, along with other amounts, are subject to change annually based on inflation.
- The total amount that a disabled worker and their family can receive is about 150% to 180% of the disabled worker’s benefit.
- There are some conditions that the Social Security Administration considers so severe that they automatically render an applicant disabled.
- Many conditions require careful screening by the SSA.
- There is a mandatory waiting period of five months after your disability begins before you can start receiving benefits.
- Benefit amounts change annually based on inflation.
What Are Social Security Disability Benefits?
Social Security disability benefits come from payroll deductions required by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) to cover the cost of Social Security benefits, such as retirement and spousal and survivor benefits. Some of this funding goes into the Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund and pays for disability benefits.
According to the Social Security website, to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have worked a certain length of time in jobs covered by Social Security. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the past 10 years, ending with the year you became disabled. You must also have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability.
SSDI should not be confused with Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which pays benefits to those who have financial needs regardless of their work history. Although these two names sound similar, the qualifications to get the payments and what you might receive are very different.
Younger workers may qualify for SSDI with fewer credits.
Social Security Disability Evaluation Process
Though there are some conditions that the SSA considers so severe that they automatically render an applicant disabled, many conditions require careful screening, including answering these five questions:
- Are you currently working? If you are working, you are not blind, and your earnings average more than $1,350 per month in 2022 ($1,470 in 2023), then you will not be considered disabled. If you are not working, or if your income falls below Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) limits, move on to question two.
- Is your condition severe? If Social Security determines that your condition does not interfere with basic work-related activities, then you will not be considered disabled. If your condition does interfere with basic work-related activities, move on to question three.
- Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions? Social Security maintains a list of disabling medical conditions that automatically qualify you as disabled. If your condition is not one of these, then Social Security will determine if it is severe enough to qualify. If it is deemed severe enough, you will be considered disabled and your application will be approved. If not, move on to question four.
- Can you do the work you did previously? If your condition does not interfere with your ability to do the work that you used to do, then you will not be considered disabled. If it does, move on to question five.
- Can you do any other type of work? Finally, if you can’t do the work that you did previously, then Social Security will determine whether you can do some other type of work. If Social Security determines that you can adjust to other suitable work (taking into account your medical condition, age, education, previous work experience, and other factors), then you will not be considered disabled and your claim will be denied. If you cannot adjust, then your claim will be approved.
In addition, qualifying conditions must be expected to last at least one year or result in death.
There is a mandatory waiting period before disability benefits begin to disperse.
When Payments Begin
Many people believe you have to be disabled for a certain period of time before you can apply for Social Security disability benefits. That isn’t true. You can (and should) apply as soon as you believe that you are disabled.
There is a mandatory waiting period, though, before you can receive payments. According to the SSA, you will receive benefits after your sixth full month of disability. When you start getting them, whether or not they are taxable depends on your income.
How Much Does Social Security Disability Pay a Month?
SSDI benefit payments are based on each individual’s average lifetime earnings. To find out what you could get, check out the SSA’s online benefits calculator.
How Long Does Social Security Disability Last?
Normally, unless your medical condition improves, you’ll continue to receive Social Security disability payments. As some conditions do improve over time, the SSA periodically reviews cases to make sure recipients are still eligible.
How Long After You're Approved for Disability Do You Get Your Money?
There is a waiting period. Usually, it can take five months for benefits to get paid, with the first payment arriving the sixth full month after the date the SSA determined your disability began.
So, for example, if the SSA determined that your disability began on June 15, 2022, and you applied on July 1, 2022, your first benefit would be paid for the month of December 2022.
The Bottom Line
You should apply for Social Security disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. The application process can take three to five months, according to Social Security, and counts as part of the mandatory waiting period of five months after the onset of your disability.
You can apply on the Social Security website or by calling 1-800-772-1213.