Using the Social Security Disability Calculator to Estimate Benefits

When you apply for supplemental security income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), how do you know what the award will be? Some claimants will be approved for one amount while others are approved for other amounts, and others still are denied altogether. What factors make that critical difference? How does the Social Security Administration (SSA) calculate disability for 2019 and 2020? It’s a complex process, but you can get a preview into your award by using Social Security calculators to estimate your monthly benefits. For help with your disability application and understanding how much your case might be worth, contact the Philadelphia disability lawyers at Young Marr & Associates today.

2019 and 2020 Income Limits and Maximum SSI and SSDI Payments

SSI and SSDI payments change every year to accommodate economic fluctuations. This is referred to as a “cost-of-living adjustment” (COLA). Aside from the actual payments, other numbers and thresholds change from year to year according to the COLA, and these numbers are also taken into account in the process of qualifying for benefits and determining how much your benefits will be.

Maximum and Average Disability Benefits for 2019 and 2020

If you are planning to apply for disability benefits, some of the most important factors you need to understand are the average and maximum benefits. The average payout is also known as the “standard” payment, and both average payouts are different for SSI and SSDI. The following are the average and max disability benefits for 2019 and 2020 applicants:

2019 Average Benefits for SSDI and SSI

  • SSDI applicants: $1,234
  • SSI applicants: $771

2020 Average Benefits

  • SSDI applicants: $1,258
  • SSI applicants: $783

2019 Maximum Disability Benefits (SSDI and SSI)

Individuals receiving disability in 2019 have a maximum benefit of $2,861 per month.

2020 Maximum Disability Benefits (SSDI and SSI)

Individuals receiving disability in 2020 have a maximum benefit or $3,011 per month. These benefits reflect the 1.6% COLA for 2020. This is a significant decrease from the 2019 adjustment of 2.8% and the 2018 adjustment of 2%.

For help calculating SSDI income limits in Pennsylvania in 2021, reach out to our Philadelphia disability lawyers today.

Substantial Gainful Employment (SGA) Thresholds for 2019 and 2020

To qualify for disability benefits in the first place, you must not be engaging in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). If you earn more than the prescribed income limit, you are engaging in SGA and therefore do not meet the SSA’s strict definition of being disabled. Remember, the SSA considers only claimants with severe disabilities eligible for benefits, so making less than this income limit is one of the first factors in determining your eligibility.

The following are the most recent income limits for disability applicants:

2019 Disability Income Limits

  • If you are blind, you must make under $2,040 per month.
  • If you are not blind, you must make under $1,220 per month.

2020 Disability Income Limits

  • If you are blind, you must make under $2,110 per month.
  • If you are not blind, you must make under $1,260 per month.

Trial Work Period Income Limits for 2019 and 2020

Once you start receiving disability, you may not be able to make enough income to support yourself, but the SSA may allow you to work on the side. However, any month where you make over a certain amount will count as a “trial work period” (TWP). You are permitted to use up to 9 months towards a TWP. These months do not have to be consecutive so long as they are within any 60-month period. Once you use up your 9 months, you may jeopardize your benefits by continuing to work.

You must report any income received while on disability to the SSA, and any income over the following thresholds triggers a trial work period:

2019 Trial Work Period Income Limits

Any income under $880 is permitted without triggering a TWP.

2020 Trial Work Period Income Limits

Any income under $910 is permitted without triggering a TWP.

The SSA Quick Calculator

The SSA offers a handful of different calculators to determine the benefits that different kinds of Social Security recipients would qualify to receive. The calculator best suited to disability applicants is the Quick Calculator (found here), which provides a ballpark estimate of your benefits by retirement age given your current earnings.

Most SSDI applicants can receive benefits as though they retired at the maximum retirement age; however, this calculation may be different for SSI applicants. This calculator is therefore most helpful for SSDI applicants.

Hypothetical Disability Calculator Example:

First, the Quick Calculator asks you to enter your date of birth. Let’s use the hypothetical birthdate of someone who is around 45 years old – January 1, 1973. This is a good example, since that individual would be too young to retire, but still in the prime working years of their life.

Next, you’re prompted to enter your current income. Let’s leave the default setting of $40,000. (If you’re retired, simply enter a 0 in the field for current earnings. Then, move down to the following set of boxes and enter the last year you worked and your income for that year.)

Lastly, the calculator asks you to enter your planned retirement date (month and year only). If you leave this blank, the calculator will give you multiple options, showing your payout for retirement at different ages. It will also show your expected benefit for disability – which is what we’re looking for.

That’s it! To finish, you have an option between “today’s dollars” and “inflated dollars.” The calculator will not use inflated future dollars if you use the calculator for disability benefits, so the result will be the same for disability benefits with either option. Click “Submit request,” and the calculator will give you your expected disability benefits.


Our imaginary example produced an estimated calculation for monthly benefits of $1,351. Note that this calculation is made with the assumption that you became disabled today.

The calculator will also produce projected benefits for your child, a spouse who cares for a child, your spouse (if they are at full retirement age when you become disabled), and the maximum family disability benefits. In many cases, your family can receive benefits on your record, which can help support them as well as providing you with your benefits. With family benefits, the projected monthly disability benefit for this example is $2,281.90 per month.

The SSA also offers several other calculators which do not estimate disability. For example, the Retirement Calculator can estimate retirement benefits, but is not meant to be used by people who are filing for disability benefits.

How Much Disability Can You Get? Deciding Factors

As we’ve been exploring throughout this article, disability awards can vary dramatically from one claimant to the next. Even with calculators at your disposal, it’s still difficult to determine exactly how much you could ultimately receive.

This is because there are many different factors that impact how much each claimant is eligible for. So, why do some people receive the absolute maximum, while others wind up getting less than average? Consider the following questions:

  • Are you receiving worker’s comp or state benefits? If you are, the SSA might pay reduced benefits, treating those other benefits as the primary benefits. Think of the income you were earning before you had your accident. Now, imagine 80% of that number. If your combined SSDI benefits and worker’s compensation (or other state benefits) add up to more than the 80% of what you used to earn, the SSA will lower your SSDI payment to compensate.
  • Are you filing alone, or with a spouse? Married couples are eligible for higher amounts than their single counterparts.
  • How much of your income qualifies? Not all income is counted toward the income amount that the SSA looks at for SSI. The more countable income you earn, the lower your SSI payment will generally be, since SSI is need-based.
  • Can you get a state supplement? Pennsylvania and New Jersey both sometimes add state money to the federal SSI payment claimants receive from the SSA.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey Disability Lawyers Offering Free Consultations

If you need help filing for SSDI or SSI, or if your disability claim was denied by the SSA and you want to appeal the decision, Young Marr & Associates can help. To set up your free, private consultation with our experienced Pennsylvania and New Jersey disability lawyers, call (609) 557-3081 today if you are in New Jersey or (215) 515-2954 if you are seeking disability in Pennsylvania.