What Does Social Security Disability Pay?

When people become disabled, dealing with finances can be incredibly stressful. And, as the newly disabled begin to look at their budget in this changed landscape, one of the first questions is often, “What does Social Security disability pay?”

The answer: It depends.

Getting Social Security Disability Pay

First you need to know whether you’ll even qualify for Social Security disability pay.

According to the official Social Security website, the following requirements must be met:

  • You must first have worked in jobs covered by Social Security.
  • You must have worked long enough—and recently enough—under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits.
  • You mush have earned the required number of work credits within a certain period ending with the time you become disabled.
  • You must have a medical condition that meets the Social Security definition of disability: Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or for short-term disability.
  • You cannot do work that you did before; you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

If your application is approved, your Social Security disability pay starts the sixth full month after your disability began, and benefits are paid the month following the month they’re due.

That means if you’re disabled in the middle of June, you won’t see a check until January of the following year, at the earliest.

How Much Will You Get?

Your Social Security disability check is not based on your current income or the level of your disability. It’s based on your income over the time you’ve been paying into the Social Security system.

That means if you make much more now than you did for most of your career, you can expect a benefit check that reflects your previous, smaller salary.

You can get an estimate of what Social Security disability pays using online benefit calculators from SSA.gov.

For example, using this Quick Calculator, we estimated Social Security disability benefits for three people:

Person one:

  • Born in 1975
  • Current annual salary: $40,000
  • Estimated monthly disability benefit: $1,321

Person two:

  • Born in 1965
  • Current annual salary: $100,000
  • Estimated monthly disability benefit: $2,242

Person three:

  • Born in 1982
  • Current annual salary: $25,000
  • Estimated monthly disability benefit: $1,037

You can also get more detailed estimates on government disability pay using different benefit calculators on the SSA website. Your information will be the most accurate if you first find your past earnings in your online Social Security statement.

How Would Your Budget Fare?

Once you have an estimate of what your disability benefit would be, you can start to picture what your budget might look like on Social Security disability.

Could you keep up on bills until your checks started arriving? And with Social Security disability pay alone, could you keep up with those bills?

Could you also cover the medical bills you’d surely face if you were to become disabled? What if you needed to make updates to your home, such as installing a wheelchair ramp?

Could You Stay Afloat?

As you can see, the question “What does Social Security disability pay?” doesn’t have a quick and simple answer.

The question of whether it would keep you financially afloat if you become disabled is even more difficult to answer.

Now that you know a little more about how Social Security disability pay works, maybe it’s time to ask yourself this: Do you think it’s wise to count on Social Security disability to cover you or should you find other ways to protect your income?

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