How Social Security Disability Payments Are Made

Calendar With Thumb Tacks Marking Important Days in a SSDI ClaimYou’ve already come a long way since the injury or illness that left you unable to work. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) process can be grueling, even for legitimate applicants. You may have even been denied and forced to file an appeal, dragging out the process even longer. Now that you have finally been approved, you are understandably anxious to begin collecting your benefits. In fact, you’re not sure how you will make ends meet if you have to wait any longer. We review the Social Security Administration’s policies on how much you will collect, when you will begin getting payments, and how back pay works to help you plan accordingly.

How Much Will My SSDI Payments Be?

Because SSDI is a system you have paid into, not a need-based program, your payments are based on your lifetime average earnings. The longer you have worked, and the more you have paid in Social Security taxes, the higher your SSDI payments will be. However, the formula used to calculate your exact payment amount is very complicated. It factors in your average indexed monthly earnings and your primary insurance amount, which is the amount you would earn if you begin receiving Social Security at your normal retirement age. The SSA provides calculators on its website to help people figure out how much they will earn. In 2019, the maximum you can receive is $2,861, and the average monthly benefit was $1,234.

While private insurance coverage, such as a long-term disability policy, will not lower your SSDI payments, some other government benefits will affect how much you earn. The total of your SSDI, state workers’ compensation, and temporary state disability benefits cannot be more than 80 percent of the average amount you earned before your disability. If these combined benefits exceed the allowed amount, your SSDI payments will be reduced. It’s important to note that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Veterans benefits will not reduce your SSDI payments.

When Your Payments Will Start

So, you know how much you are supposed to get, but when will the payments start? According to the SSA, your benefits start in the sixth full month after the official date your disability began. For example, if your disability onset date, as determined by the SSA, is March 2, 2019, your first payment will be due for September 2019. However, SSDI benefits are paid the month after they are due, so your first payment will actually be in October of 2019.

When Is Back Pay Owed?

Obviously, it is best to file a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance as soon as possible after you become disabled, but there is no official time limit for doing so. Because of this—and because SSDI applications can take many months to process—you may be owed past-due benefits. Here’s how that works. You should begin receiving benefits in the sixth month after the onset date of your disability. If you wait several months to apply and your application takes several months to process, you may be notified that you are approved after the six months are up. In that case, you will receive payments for the months between the six-month date and the current date. For example, the SSA determines that your disability onset date was August 16, 2018. You file for benefits in December of 2018, and you get notice of your approval in May, 2019. Your payments should start immediately, and you should get back pay for March and April.

If your initial application was denied and you filed an appeal, by the time you are approved, you will likely be owed many months of back pay.

Our Social Security Attorney Can Help You With This Process

There’s no denying that the SSDI process is complicated. If at any point you begin to feel overwhelmed by the process, please contact the Indianapolis SSDI attorneys at Keller & Keller in Indianapolis. We make it our business to help you get the benefits you deserve—including all the back pay you are owed. Fill out our contact form or call our office today.


James R. Keller
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Partner at Keller & Keller