What Can Increase a Disability Check?

Question: Why Is a Friend’s Disability Check So Much Higher?

My brother is disabled and is collecting Social Security disability (SSDI) at the amount of $669 a month. We live in Austin, Texas. He lives with me, and I have a job making 40K a year.

He talked to his friend in Laredo, Texas, who is also disabled, and he gets $1,200 a month. My brother doesn’t understand why there is such a large difference in the benefit amount between him and his friend. I told I don’t have the answer. Do you?

Hugh

Answer

If your brother is collecting SSDI, his benefit amount is dependent on the income he made (and paid taxes on) over many years. The SSDI payment is determined according to a complex formula, but generally, the longer you work, the higher your benefit amount will be. The average SSDI payment in 2016 is $1,116. Your brother’s friend in Jackson Hole probably made more income than your brother during his lifetime.

To see his entire earnings history and the benefit amount calculations, your brother can check his Social Security statement online at  www.ssa.gov/mystatement/. Your brother’s disability check should be the same amount that he would be able collect at full retirement age (if he doesn’t work again until full retirement age).

If your brother is actually collecting disability payments through the low-income program called SSI, or “Supplemental Security Income” (and not SSDI), the benefit amount would not be dependent on your brother’s past income. SSI pays a set amount, although it can be lowered if the recipient is living with someone else. The SSI amount also varies by state, but it usually works out to around $600 or $700 per month, significantly lower than most SSDI payments.

 

Question: Can My Father Get More Social Security if My Mother Is Disabled?

My father receives a small Social Security benefit. My mother did not have enough work hours credited to her Social Security account and is not receiving a Social Security benefit. My mother is disabled and has been unable to walk for the last two years. Is my father eligible for a higher benefit due to spouse’s disability?

Thanks for your assistance,

Phyllis

Answer

No, your father can’t collect a higher Social Security benefit due to your mother’s disability. However, even without a disability, at age 62, your mother can start to collect an early spousal benefit based on your father’s earnings record, or at age 66, a full spousal benefit.  The full spousal benefit, collectable at age 66, is generally 50% of the retired worker’s Social Security amount. If your mother collects a spousal benefit between age 62 and 66, her 50% benefit will be reduced by early retirement penalties.

Also, note that if your father dies before your mother, she would be able to collect survivors benefits based on your father's record. Starting at age 50, she could collect survivors benefits based on her disability (if Social Security agrees she’s disabled). Or, at age 62, she could start to collect retirement-based survivors benefits.  

If your mother were to collect a disability-based survivors benefit at age 50, she would get 71.5% of your father’s benefit. If she were not to collect survivors benefits until her full retirement age (probably 66), she would get 100% of your father’s Social Security benefit.

Your mother should contact the local Social Security office to ask them whether she is eligible for spousal benefits.

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