The truth is your SSDI paycheck depends a lot on your lifetime earnings. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) to calculate the amount of your social security payments.
If you are eligible for SSDI payments and your application has been approved, the monthly disability you receive will depend on your average indexed lifetime earnings for the best 35 years of earning during your lifetime before your disability began. It is not, contrary to popular opinion, dependent on how much income you have or how severe your disability (in most cases except for blind).
Calculating your disability payment amount
The SSA bases your benefits payment amount on your AIME which in turn depends on your retirement amount and income during the highest 35 years of earning during your lifetime. This income also needs to be amongst those from which you have paid the Social Security taxes during your lifetime. The formula consists of five different bend-points (amounts of income). For example, 90% of the your first AIME below $960 will be added to your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) if you begin to receive benefits at the right retirement age. Then, 32% of your AIME from $960 to $5,785, plus 15% of your AIME over $5,785. These amounts are added up to come up with your PIA that in turn determines the amount of benefits you will receive once you become eligible for disability payments.
To check out your full covered earnings history, you can check your annual Social Security Statement. You can check your statement online at https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount.You can also get a custom estimate depending on your salary information by entering the salaries yourself rather than rely on your earnings record and Social Security's estimate of your future earnings, you can use the SSA's online benefits calculator at https://www.ssa.gov/planners/calculators.) You can also call your local Social Security office and a field representative will be able to help you estimate what your benefits would be. (Note that Social Security only sends out printed statements every year to those over 60 who aren't receiving benefits and who don't have an online account at Social Security's website.)
How to calculate Average-Indexed Monthly Earnings: You can calculate your average indexed monthly earnings by adding up the earnings of 35 years of your indexed earnings (highest) upto 60 years of age and then dividing by the total number of months worked during those years.
This is due to the fact that the Social Security Administration uses a complex formula including several bend-points adjusted to inflation to calculate your AIME. The maximum disability benefits receivable during 2020 are thus $3011 according to that formula.
What is the average disability payment? Most people get between $800 to $1800 of paychecks for non-blind people (during 2020). The average disability paycheck for non-blind in 2020 is $1258. However, if you happen to be getting benefits from any other sources then your disability benefits payments may be reduced or freeze altogether.
Reduced Disability Payments due to Other Disability Benefits
If you happen to receive any private disability benefits from sources other than the government such as private insurance or an employer or business insurance then it will not affect your disability paychecks. However, if you are eligible for other benefits such as the Supplemental Security Income, spousal disability support, retirement benefits, worker's compensation benefits or any other federal government related disability payments then they can directly affect the amount of your disability paychecks. The federal government has a rule that a disability claimant cannot receive more than 80% of the average amount they earned before their disability/impairments. If you do, your disability benefits may be reduced or be cancelled altogether.
Also, if you are able to perform substantial gainful activity even during your disability, such as running a business or outsourcing freelance work etc, or for instance, if you earn money through teaching online classes, then your SSDI benefits may be temporarily freezed or cancelled altogether until your disability worsens or you are unable to perform substantial gainful activity to earn a considerate amount of living on your own. Other than that, special payments such as Veteran benefits do not affect your disability payments.
The SSA bases your benefits payment amount on your AIME which in turn depends on your retirement amount and income during the highest 35 years of earning during your lifetime.
What about Social Security Backpay?
It takes weeks to more than 6 months to 12 months for your disability application to be accepted and for your disability payments to start flowing through. During this time, your disability/impairment could worsen or demand certain expenditures that you were unable to afford but had to manage nonetheless, such as doctor's fees, wheelchairs, affording caretakers, expensive medical tests/treatments etc. For this, the SSA has devised a system of disability backpay.
It is the amount that you spend on your own during your disability period when your disability application was pending until your first disability paycheck arrived. The amount you receive in your disability backpay is also dependent on your SSDI amount. How many months of disability backpay you receive will depend on the officially recorded date of your disability plus your disability application date. If you got your disability payments approved through a second or third application, but your disability had started since the first application date, then you may receive backpay dating to the first application date.