I receive a lot of important questions about Social Security benefits and what kind of assistance it may offer for people living with a disability. If you’ve paid Social Security taxes in the past, you may qualify for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program for those unable to work due to a severe disability.
SSDI provides monthly benefits in the form of payments to those who qualify. In 2021, the average monthly SSDI payment is $1,277 and the maximum is $3,148. To qualify for benefits, you generally need to meet the following standards:
• If currently working, you do not earn more than $1,310 per month on average.
• You have accrued a minimum number of Social Security credits, calculated based on your age. Those over 31 years-old generally need at least 20 credits in the ten years before becoming disabled. (If you have questions about credits, send me an email.)
• Suffer from a disability that significantly limits the ability to work. Unlike other programs, SSDI only covers what they refer to as “total disability.”
• The disability must be expected to affect the person for at least 12 months.
To be clear, the amount of money a qualified individual receives from SSDI is not calculated based on the nature or severity of disability. Similar to Social Security retirement benefits, it’s based on an individual’s past earnings for work covered by Social Security.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) actually offers a Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool that helps identify what benefits an individual may qualify for. I recommend playing around with this tool to get a better sense of program requirements and the documentation you need to provide. Of course, I’m always here as a resource to guide you through the process.
An important aspect of the program is that you can still earn income while receiving SSDI benefits. There’s a monthly cap on how much you can earn to continue to qualify, but the SSA does offer leeway for those transitioning back into the workforce and for fluctuations in income.
Here are some key factors on earning while receiving SSDI benefits:
• In 2021, individuals cannot earn more than $940 per month while receiving benefits without accumulating toward a Trial Work Period (TWP).
• TWP is a nine month period that allows SSDI recipients to receive benefits regardless of what they earn.
• Any given month wherein you earn more than $940 counts toward the TWP, even if it is not consecutive.
• Once the TWP is activated, it continues for five years. If you have nine months of earnings above $940 within that five-year span, the SSA evaluates your case and you will likely no longer qualify for full benefits.
• When an individual fulfills the TWP (i.e., exceeds earnings for nine months), they can still receive full benefits for up to 36 months.
I know that’s a lot of information, but programs like this can be truly lifesaving. I want to make sure that anyone who can potentially receive benefits has all the information they need to put forward a successful application.
If you have any questions on this for yourself or a loved one, please do reach out.