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How Much Does Disability Pay in Philadelphia?

Disability benefits serve as a desperately needed safety net for people who are unable to work due to injury or illness. In Philadelphia, if you have suffered a non-work-related illness or injury, you may be eligible for disability benefit payments from the federal government’s Social Security Administration (SSA).

The Social Security Administration (SSA) operates two main programs to provide benefits to disabled Americans. They are the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI or SSD) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. Each program serves a different population of candidates. The SSDI program is reserved for workers with a long substantial history of employment, and the SSI program is designed to help those people who either have no long-term employment or who have not worked within the past five years.

The programs pay very different benefit amounts. The top SSDI benefits payment possible is $3,627 per month. The highest SSI benefit payment is $914. But both programs use the same criteria to determine if someone meets the government’s definition of a “disability”:

A qualifying disability is a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that lasts or is expected to last 12 months (or result in death) and prevents the person from performing substantial gainful activities (earning above a set monthly income cap).

How the Amount of Your Monthly SSDI Disability Benefit Payment is Determined

Every person who receives SSDI or SSI gets a different benefit payment each month. The size of the disability benefit payment depends on factors unique to each person.

Let’s look at the SSDI program first. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI or SSD) only applies to workers and former workers who accumulated a sufficient number of work credits over the course of a long work period. Each working person pays into the SSD pot each pay period when the government takes FICA contributions out of their paycheck. Self-employed workers pay the full amount themselves, but employees split the cost of the taxes evenly with their employer.

The benefit payment formula: The amount of your SSDI benefit check is determined by how much taxable income you earn in your 35 highest-earning years. The government identifies the 35 years in which you earned the highest “taxable” income and then applies an indexing formula designed to account for the rise in living costs over the years.

Next, the Social Security Administration (SSA) adds those 35 indexed annual incomes together and divides them by 35, producing your “average” annual indexed income. Then the SSA divides the annual average income by 12 to find your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME).

This AIME is the base point from which your monthly SSD benefit payment will be determined. Here’s the formula into which your AIME figure is processed:

  • Add 90 % of the AIME’s first $1,115, plus.
  • 32 % of the AIME above $1,115 to $6,721, plus
  • 15 % of any  AIME above $6,721.
  • Round down the resulting figure to the nearest $0.10, if not already a multiple of 10.

The final amount produced by this formula is the SSDI benefits applicant’s Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), the amount they will receive in each month’s SSDI payment.

Note: This formula is exactly the same formula the Social Security Administration uses to determine your Social Security retirement benefits. The monthly SSDI payment equals the sum you would receive at your Full Retirement Age (FRA).

How Your Monthly SSI Disability Benefit Payment Is Determined

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based program intended to provide some financial support to low-income disabled individuals who are not eligible for SSD because they do not have enough work credits. However, SSDI recipients may be eligible for SSI if their income and available resources are low enough.

The SSI payment system works differently than SSDI. SSI starts every recipient’s monthly payment level at $914 in theory. Then, the Social Security Administration deducts any “countable income” the SSI recipient received during the month from the $914 figure.

What’s Countable Income for SSI Purposes?

Under the SSI program, “countable income” is left after excluding “noncountable income” and any applicable exclusions that SSI recognizes as permitted deductions. Noncountable income, meaning income that will be used to reduce your $914 benefit, includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • The first $20 of income in a month.
  • The first $65 dollars of earned income in any month, and one-half of any income earned during the month after the first $65.
  • SNAP benefits.
  • Income tax refunds.
  • Home energy assistance
  • Needs-based state or local government-funded assistance,
  • Small amounts of income are received irregularly.
  • Costs of impairment-related work expenses
  • Students under 22 earned an income of $2,220 per month but not more than $8,950.
  • Interest or dividends earned on countable resources or resources excluded under other Federal laws.
  • Grants, scholarships, fellowships, or gifts used for tuition and educational expenses;
  • Needs-based food or shelter provided by nonprofit agencies.
  • Loans that you have to repay.
  • money someone else spends to pay your expenses for items other than food or shelter (for example, someone pays your telephone or medical bills);

There are additional exclusions, too many to list in this brief blog post. But you can learn more about how much SSI you can receive by speaking to a disability advocate at London Disability Services, Advocates for Social Security. Contact our office today to find out if you are eligible for either SSDI or SSI benefit payments, and how much you can expect to receive in your monthly disability benefits payments.

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