How Much Can I Make on SSDI or SSI in 2023?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI or SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) both provide financial benefits to disabled individuals. While the Social Security Administration operates both programs, each program maintains different financial eligibility requirements even though to two programs define a qualified disability by the same measure.

In this blog post, we’ll cover the medical and financial requirements to qualify for each program and explain how to determine the amount of your benefit payments. As you will see, the programs are designed to assist different groups of disabled individuals, but some people may be eligible to receive both benefits simultaneously.

Do You Qualify as “Disabled” Under SSD or SSI?

Both the SSDI and the SSI disability benefits programs define a qualifying disability as “ a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that lasts or is expected to last for 12 months (or result in death) and prevents the claimant from performing substantial gainful activities.” In 2023, Substantial Gainful Activities (SGA) are activities (work) by which you could earn more than $1,470 monthly (after disability-related work expenses). The level for a blind claimant is $2,300/mo.

If your impairment) is severe enough to meet these criteria, you may be qualified for SSD and or SSI benefits.

Do You Have Sufficient Work Credits for SSDI?

Only workers and former workers who have accumulated enough work credits through long periods of employment over many years are eligible for SSDI benefits. The SSDI benefits are largely paid for by employees’ FICA payroll deductions and by self-employed workers. Workers earn one work credit for each $1,640 they earn but not more than four work credits per year. In most cases, an SSDI claimant must have earned 40 credits to be eligible for SSDI benefits.

Do You Have Sufficient Work Credits for SSDI?

Do You Have Low Income and Limited Financial Resources for SSI Benefits?

If you have a disability as defined by the Social Security Administration explained above but do not have sufficient work credits to be eligible to receive SSDI benefits, you can file a claim for benefits with the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. However, unlike the SSDI program, SSI is a needs-based program open to low-income disabled persons with very limited financial resources.

What Amount Will You Make on SSDI or SSI in 2023?

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI or SSD) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs have only one thing in common; they both use the same criteria to define whether a claimant qualifies as “disabled.” Other than that single feature, the two programs differ in most respects, from the financial eligibility requirements to the dollar value of benefits paid.

Calculating Your SSDI Benefits Payment Amount in 2023

The amount of your monthly SSDI benefits payment is determined by your average monthly income and is based on your lifetime earnings records. The Social Security Administration (SSA) selects the 35 years in which you earned the highest taxable income. Those 35 years are then “indexed” to adjust them to the national average and the increased cost of living since those years.

Next, the SSA adds those 35 years’ earnings together and divides them by 35, giving them your average indexed annual earnings. That figure is then divided by 12 to produce your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings, called your AIME. This AIME is the starting point for the formula determining your monthly SSDI benefits payment.

Here is the formula that the SSA uses to set the amount of your monthly SSDI payment:

  • Add 90 % of the first $1,115 of your AIME, plus
  • 32 % of your AIME between $1,116 and $6,721, plus
  • 15 % of your AIME above $6,721, and then
  • round down to the next lowest $0.10 unless already a multiple of 10.

The final figure arrived at in this formula is called your Primary Insurance Amount, or PIA.

This formula can be confusing unless we use an example to show you how the process works with real numbers.

Example 1:

In this example, we’ll assume that the SSA has identified our imaginary worker’s highest 35 annual taxable incomes; we’ll call them Sam. Then the 35 highest incomes were added together, divided by 35, and that figure was divided by 12, producing Sam’s Average Indexed Monthly Income (AIME). Let’s say that Sam’s AIME is $6,850.

Now we’ll run Sam’s $6,850 AIME through the formula to find how much Sam will receive as a monthly Social Security Disability benefit.

  • 90 % of the first $1,115 of Sam’s $6,850 AIME = (1115 x .9) = $1,003.50, plus
  • 32 % of the amount between $1,116 and $6,721 = (6721 – 1116 = 5605 x .32) = $1,793.60, plus
  • 15 % of any amount of Sam’s AIME above $6,721 = (6850 – 6721 = 129 x .15) = $19.35.

$1,003.50 + $1,793.60 + $19.35 = $2,816.45

Round down to the next lowest $0.10 = $2,816.40.

In this example, Sam’s monthly Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit is $2,816.40.

Calculating Your SSI Benefits Payment Amount in 2023

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is designed to provide some financial support to disabled people who are not eligible for SSDI benefits. Eligibility for SSI benefits requires a claimant to be 65 years old or older or have a qualifying disability and be low-income with very limited financial resources.

The income and financial resource eligibility levels in 2023 provide that only those disabled individuals with less than $934 in unearned income per month and with no more than $2,000 in resources. A couple may have no more than $3,000 in resources, and both spouses’ resources are counted.

Unlike SSDI, the monthly benefit amount cannot be based on past earnings because many SSI recipients have too limited an earnings record. So, the Social Security Administration assumes that every SSI recipient is entitled to the maximum monthly benefit amount, $914, for an individual in 2023. For an SSI recipient with an eligible spouse, the 2023 maximum benefit amount is $1,371, and the benefit for an essential person is $458. However, this is the presumed benefit before the SSA begins deducting sums of money based on the other declared income the claimant reports.

Deductions from the Presumed Monthly Maximum SSI Benefit

How does the Social Security Administration (SSA) determine how much to deduct from your maximum SSI benefit monthly? The SSA will reduce the claimant’s benefit amount by the amount of unearned income an SSI claimant receives from other sources during the month; however, not all unearned income will be counted.

Unearned income includes Social Security benefits, workers’ compensation, some veterans’ compensation or pension payments, unemployment, pensions, support and maintenance in kind, annuities, rent, and other income that is not earned.

There is a long list of unearned income sources that Social Security does not count, including but not limited to the following:

  • Medical care and services (including reimbursements and payment of health insurance premiums by others).
  • Social services.
  • Income tax refunds.
  • Bills paid by someone else for things other than food or shelter.
  • Home energy assistance based on a low income.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamp assistance.
  • Assistance based on need from a state or local political subdivision or Indian tribe.
  • Grants, scholarships, fellowships, and gifts for educational expenses.
  • Payments for giving foster care to a child not getting SSI but placed by an approved agency in the home of someone getting SSI.
  • One-third of any child support payments come from the absent parent if you are a child.
  • Earnings (up to $2,220 a month, but no more than $8,950 a year in 2023) of a person younger than age 22 who regularly attends school or a training program. Many educational grants to students.
  • Income needed to establish and maintain a “Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)” account.
  • Earned income deductions for work expenses used to pay costs to help a disabled person work.
  • Housing assistance from most federal housing programs.
  • Interest paid on excluded burial funds and left to accumulate.
  • Crime victims’ compensation payments.

Many more sources of unearned income are also excluded from counting by Social Security in determining your final monthly SSI benefit.

Earned Income

Just as Social Security reduces the monthly benefit payment by the amount of “countable” unearned income they receive, they also reduce benefits by the person’s countable earned income. Earned income is exactly that; wages, net earnings from self-employment, certain royalties, and money from special workshops employing disabled people, so-called sheltered workshops.

But Social Security excludes some earned income from being counted, including:

  • The first $65 earned each month (if no unearned income is received, then the first $85).
  • One-half of the income above $65.
  • Earned income used to pay disability-related work expenses.

Because Social Security does not count half of your earned income above the first $65 each month, an individual can earn up to $1,913 and still receive SSI in 2023. A couple can earn as much as $2,827.

The Clauson Law Firm’s Social Security Expertise

Your Social Security questions are important to the people at Clauson Law. We handle every aspect of Social Security and disability law. Our experienced disability lawyers and trained Social Security disability law paralegals can help you prepare, file, and win the disability benefits you deserve.

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Clauson Law has focused on representing the injured and disabled for over 10 years. We have handled thousands of cases. Each client is important to us and has a unique situation.

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