People often ask me how much they can expect to get in monthly benefits if Social Security approves them for disability. I always say that Social Security uses a complicated formula and we won't know for sure until after we win the case. It turns out that I was partially right--it is a complicated formula. But, if you are good with math or have a calculator handy, you can figure it out.
Okay, Math Nerds: This One's For You
As I understand it, this is what Social Security does to determine what your monthly disability benefits. First, they have to figure out how many years of earnings to use in their
calculations. For retirement benefits, this number is 35. But, because disability can prevent a worker from putting in 35 years, it would be unfair to use that number when so many of the years would have zero earnings. So, Social Security uses this formula:
Take your current age and subtract 22. That gives you the number of full years in your potential career as an adult so far. Take one-fifth of that number of years. Round it down to the nearest whole number, but if it's less than 2, use 2 instead. If it's more than 5, use 5 instead. Subtract the second number from the first. The result is the number of years of earnings included in your work history.
Still With Me, Nerds?
With the number of earnings years established, Social Security does another bit of math. They
take your average monthly earnings for the selected number of years then take 90% of the first $895, and 32% of any amount between $895 and $5,397, and add 15% of any amount over $5,397.
Put all that together and you get your monthly benefit amount.
Or, a headache.
Now For The Easy Way
Unless you really like doing the math, and you happen to know your average monthly earnings, I say skip all this and wait for Social Security to tell you what your monthly disability benefits are going to be. Better yet, get a mysocialsecurity.com account and look the number up there.
Just like in math class, you always get the shortcut after you have done all the hard work.