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1.1 How are SSDI benefits determined?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides benefits to disabled or blind persons who are “insured” by workers’ contributions to the Social Security trust fund. These contributions are based on your earnings (or those of your spouse or parents) as required by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). If you are an SSDI beneficiary, your monthly SSDI benefit payment amount is based on your lifetime average earnings covered by Social Security, or the lifetime average earnings of your applicable spouse or parent. The payment may be reduced if you receive other benefits. Annual adjustments in benefit payments, called indexing, are made to account for changes in the cost of living.

To continue receiving this benefit, you must remain medically disabled and unable to work at the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level. However, SSDI rules allow you to work and receive earnings above SGA along with your SSDI benefit during specified periods.

Your SSDI benefit may be supplemented by a benefit from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The SSI benefit is based on financial need, not your past earnings.