Understanding SSI, SSDI, and How the SSA Calculates Your Disability Benefits Payments in 2024

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There are two main federal disability benefits programs that offer financial assistance to people who have been diagnosed with a medical condition that will prevent them from working for at least 12 months. These are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and they are both administered by the United States Social Security Administration (SSA). 

SSDI supports anyone who is disabled and has accumulated sufficient work credits either through their own employment or a family member (spouse/parent). SSI, on the other hand, is for those who don’t have sufficient work credits and have limited assets which are not enough to provide support while classified as disabled. 

Importance of Understanding Payment Calculation for SSI and SSDI Recipients  

It is important for all applicants for disability benefits to understand both how SSI and SSDI work so they know their entitlements when they are unable to work due to a disability. 

Eligibility and Differences between SSI and SSDI 

A. The income and asset limits for SSI for 2024 are a monthly amount of $943 for an eligible individual, $1,415 for an eligible individual who has an eligible spouse, and $472 for an essential person. 

B. The SSDI program provides monthly payments to an eligible disabled person and certain family members, as long as the disabled person is “insured.” This means that a person needs to have worked long—and recently—enough and paid into Social Security taxes on those earnings. Working long—and recently—enough is quantified by the SSA through work credits. More specifically, an applicant must have accumulated a certain number of work credits that meets or exceeds the SSA’s work credit limit for their age to qualify for SSDI. The number of work credits required to qualify for SSDI benefits depends on the disabled applicant’s age and the date the disability begins. Normally, 40 credits are required with 20 earned in the last 10 years ending with the year the disability begins. However, a younger worker may still qualify for SSDI with fewer work credits. 

C. Medical Requirements and Eligibility Criteria for SSI are as follows: 

  • Have a medical condition that keeps you from working and is expected to last at least one year or result in death. The SSA has a list of medical conditions in its Blue Book that are considered serious enough to qualify for SSI (and SSDI). 

A person may be eligible for SSI under the following conditions:

  • Is aged 65 or older; blind; or disabled;
  • has a limited income;
  • has limited resources;
  • is a United States citizen or national, or a noncitizen in one of certain alien classifications permitted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS);
  • is a resident of one of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, or the Northern  Mariana Islands;
  • isn’t absent from the 50 States, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands for a full calendar month or for 30 consecutive days or more;
  • is not confined to an institution like a prison or hospital;
  • gives permission to the SSA to contact any financial institution and request any financial records about them;
  • files an application for SSI. 

D. Medical Requirements and Eligibility Criteria for SSDI 

To be eligible for SSDI disability benefits, you must:

  • be unable to work because you have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death and can be found in the SSA’s Blue Book;
  • not have a short term or partial disability;
  • meet the SSA’s definition of a disability;
  • not have reached the full retirement age. 

Calculating Benefits for SSI 

How income affects your payment 

For every $2 you earn from any sort of work, your SSI payment will be reduced by approximately $1. Work includes: 

  • self-employment;
  • any sort of activity that earns money; 
  • a job. 

In addition, for every $1 you make from non-work sources, your SSI payment will be reduced by approximately $1. 

Non-work sources include: 

  • disability benefits;
  • if you’re living with a spouse, their income might impact your SSI payment;
  • pensions;
  • unemployment payments. 

Children receiving SSI payments who live with their parents might have their payments reduced due to their income or their parents' income. 

G. Formula for Determining SSI and SSDI Payments 

For calculating SSI payments to determine an applicant’s SSI benefits, the SSA subtracts the persons “countable income” from the maximum federal benefit rate, which in 2024 is $943. However, the SSA won’t count the first $65 of an applicant’s earnings gained from an employer and will only count a maximum of 50 percent of their earnings over $65 when calculating SSI benefits. Also the SSA may not count other assistance received by an individual such as food stamps. 

Calculating an applicant’s SSDI disability benefits 

This is done by indexing the applicant’s wages over a 35-year period. This involves calculating how much on average someone earned taking into accounting inflation. The SSA can use this process to find an SSDI applicant’s average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). The AIME is then used to calculate an applicant’s primary insurance amount (PIA). An SSDI applicant’s PIA is their AIME divided into three different segments. Using the SSDI formula in 2023, the three segments of AIME affected the amount of an applicant’s SSDI disability check in the following ways: 

  • their check will account for 90% of the first $1,115 of their AIME; 
  • their check will account for 32% of any amount of AIME they earned between $1,116 and $6,721:
  • their check will account for 15% of any AIME earnings over $6,721:
  • if a person’s AIME isn’t more than $6,721, the third segment won’t apply. 

Types of Countable Income for SSI and SSDI 

  1. Examples of Income Counted for SSI and SSDI
    Any applicant for SSI with "countable income" that is over the federal benefit rate (FBR)—$943 for individuals in 2024—will not qualify for SSI. Anyone who has some countable income, which in total is less than the FBR, will have their monthly SSI payments lowered by the amount of their countable income. If an SSI applicant doesn’t have any countable income and ends up getting approved for SSI, they will qualify for and receive the total FBR (federal benefit rate) each month. 
  2. Income That Doesn’t Count for SSI and SSDI 
    The list below contains several more common payments and services that the SSA does not count as income:
    1. state or local needs-based assistance;
    2. money spent by others on your expenses, which is anything other than food and shelter but includes your phone bills, utility bills, or medical bills;
    3. medical care expenses;
    4. refunds of income tax;
    5. home energy assistance;
    6. scholarships and grants used for education;
    7. for students under the age of 22, earned income of not more than $2,220 per month or $8,950 per year (in 2023);
    8. food stamps;
    9. food or shelter provided by a nonprofit agency;
    10. disability-related work expenses;
    11. cash loans or "in-kind" (non-monetary) loans that you have agreed to repay. 

H. Exclusions and Exceptions to Countable Income 

The SSA won’t count the first $65 of an applicant’s earnings gained from an employer and will only count a maximum of 50 percent of their earnings over $65 when calculating SSI benefits. 

Minimum and Maximum Benefit Amounts 

I. SSDI Maximum and Average Payments in 2024 

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – the maximum payment for 2024 is $3,822 a month (up from $3,627 in 2023). 
  • The average monthly SSDI payment in 2024 is $1,537 (up from $1,489 in 2023).   
  • The maximum monthly SSI payment in 2024 is $943 (up from $914 in 2023).  
  • The average monthly SSI payment in 2024 is $697.89 (up from $... in 2023). 

Each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) makes adjustments to its payments for people receiving Social Security disability benefits. The adjustment payments made through Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Social Security retirement programs reflect annual cost-of-living (COLA) adjustments. Every year, the annual COLA increase is determined by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. The 2024 COLA adjustment is 3.2%. 

Additional Factors Affecting Payments 

These include the following: 

  • Work History, Work Credits, and Government Benefits
  • Retirement Age, Pension Income, and Dependents' Eligibility. 

Appeals, Recalculations, and Back Pay 

If your application for SSI or SSDI is denied you have both the right as well as the opportunity to appeal the decision within the time frame of 60 days. This 60-day time frame starts on the day you received word from the SSA that they denied your initial application. 

The SSA has four appeal levels, which are the following: 

  • Reconsideration; 
  • Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge;
  • Review by the Appeals Council
  • Federal Court Review. 

The results of a successful appeal could include back pay. 

Calculating SSDI Back Pay and Retroactive Payments 

To calculate back pay, the SSA multiplies your monthly payment by the months between your application date and your ultimate approval date. So, for example, if you’re receiving a monthly payment of $735, and it took the SSA eight months to ultimately approve your application, you’d be entitled to a lump sum of $5,880 in back pay. 

Strategies to Increase Payment 

There are some ways you can gain a higher payment and that’s by minimizing counted income and utilizing resources for additional support. 

Navigating Social Security Payments and Application Assistance 

It’s never easy winning a claim for either SSI or SSDI as the claims process involves a thorough assessment of your case. One of the pitfalls is finding a medical condition similar to yours in the SSA’s Blue Book. If the SSA determiners are unable to match the severity of your medical condition with one listed in the Blue Book or they don’t think your physician’s assessment of your medical condition would stop you from working your application may be denied. If your application has been denied or you are having difficulty providing suitable medical evidence you should consider Hiring a Disability Lawyer using a Free Case Evaluation service as it is important to have Legal Representation to help win your claim. 

Frequently Asked Questions and Key Takeaways  

  1. Who is eligible for SSI? 
    The Social Security Administration (SSA) begins the process by deciding if you meet the income and asset limits for SSI. Your income mustn’t exceed around $1,000 per month in 2024 and your total assets should not exceed $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for married couples. Assets include savings, cash, investments, and any other money or valuables you may have. The SSA won’t count your home or first car. However, any homes, boats, cars, or other vehicles will be counted as assets. 

    You must also meet the medical requirements for a disability or medical condition that prevents you from working, unless you’re already 65 or older. 
  2. Who is eligible for SSDI? 
    Anyone who has been diagnosed with a disability and is unable to work but has enough work credits from paying social security taxes. The amount required for a work credit changes every year. For example, in 2024 let’s say you earn 1 credit for each $1,730 in wages. You’ve earned your 4 credits for the year when you've earned $6,920. The number of work credits required to qualify for SSDI benefits depends on your age when your disability starts. Typically, you will need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned within the past 10 years finishing with the year your disability started. Younger workers will often have a lower work credit requirement. 
  3. What documents do I need to provide with a disability benefits application? 
    You need to provide proof of a diagnosis for a medical condition that is listed in the SSA’s Blue Book, such as test reports, results of your residual function capacity (RFC) assessment and your doctor’s report. 
  4. Can I earn an income while receiving disability benefits? 
    The SSA only allows you to earn a small amount of money and will deduct money from your disability benefit if you go over the maximum amount of $65. Do I need a lawyer to help me with my disability benefits application? 

    If you want to be sure that you will qualify for disability benefits a lawyer can help you complete the application and provide the evidence of your disability requested by the SSA. 


SSDI and SSI disability benefits are crucial to ensure financial survival when having to deal with a long-term disability. It’s important to understand the payment calculation for SSI and SSDI recipients so you know if you are being paid the correct amount. 

You should seek help from a disability attorney when navigating the SSA processes for 
both SSI and SSDI benefits. In 2023 the SSA denied over 60% of all initial disability applications in 2023.  The SSA has said that disability applicants who work with a disability lawyer have a higher likelihood of getting approved initially. 

Get Your Free Case Evaluation Today! Fill out the Free Case Evaluation form on this page right now to get connected and speak with a disability lawyer today—all at zero cost to you.  


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