attorney calculating social security disability benefits.

Calculating Social Security Disability Benefits

The amount of Social Security disability benefits an individual receives is based on his or her covered earnings, which is the money he or she paid in Social Security taxes prior to becoming disabled. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that provides benefits to people who suffer from a disability and are no longer able to work. In order to be eligible for SSDI, an individual must be insured under the SSDI program and be considered disabled under the Social Security Administration (SSA) guidelines. If an individual qualifies for SSDI but receives disability payments from other sources, his or her SSDI benefits may be reduced.  Below is an overview of how Social Security disability benefits are calculated. 

The Method

The SSA calculates Social Security disability benefits by using an applicant’s Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) and Primary Insurance Amount (PIA). Although this calculation is complicated, it’s important for Social Security disability applicants to have a general idea of how the SSA determines disability payment amounts.


The SSA first determines an applicant’s AIME when calculating SSDI. To do so, the SSA adjusts the applicant’s lifetime earnings to take into account wage increases that occurred during the years that the applicant was employed. In making this determination, the SSA considers up to 35 of an applicant’s working years. Next, the SSA takes the years that have the highest indexed earnings, adds them together, and divides them by the total number of months for that period. The SSA then rounds down this calculation to determine the applicant’s AIME.


As noted above, the second component of determining an applicant’s Social Security disability benefits is his or her PIA. An applicant’s PIA is the base amount of his or her benefits. The SSA combines three percentages of an applicant’s AIME to determine his or her PIA. The amounts generated from this calculation are known as bend points, and they are updated each year to reflect the national average wage index. For 2020, the PIA calculation is as follows:

  • 90% from the applicant’s first $960, 
  • 32% from the applicant’s earnings over $960 but under $5,785, and 
  • 15% of the applicant’s monthly earnings over $5,785.

Contact Our El Paso SSDI and SSI Attorney 

If you suffer from a disability and are unable to work in Texas, you should contact a Texas SSDI and SSI attorney as soon as possible for assistance. When you choose attorney Jon Sipes to handle your SSDI or SSI claim, you can rest assured that he will utilize his extensive SSDI and SSI experience to help you obtain the benefits you deserve. Jon Snipes regularly helps clients obtain SSDI and SSI in El Paso and surrounding Texas communities, and he knows what it takes to qualify under the SSDI and SSI programs. Please contact us today to schedule a free consultation.