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Social Security disability payments can be a great help for people who are struggling to pay for their healthcare expenses and cover their basic cost of living after they have been injured and can no longer work. However, there’s more to the system than just “free money” — and the amount each person can receive actually differs from year to year based on a number of factors such as income, type of disability and age. If you are considering applying for any type of Social Security disability benefits, it’s important to know how much compensation you can expect to receive so that you can plan accordingly.

Social Security Disability Compensation

Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, paid an average of $1,171 per month in 2017, but the actual amount that people get ranges between $700 and $1,700. Some recipients can earn up to $2,639 per month, which means the range of possibilities is pretty large — so how can you know what you can expect to receive? The Social Security Administration looks at several factors when deciding how much money to grant, starting with what benefits you qualify.

For example, if you are also receiving disability payments from another source — such as SSI, or Supplemental Security Income — you may receive less from SSDI as a result. How long you have worked in the United States, as well as the number of years you have paid taxes and the number of dependents you have, are also considered and can affect your benefits. Each year, take a look at the SSA’s Social Security Statement to find out exactly what kinds of benefits are offered to people who became disabled that year.

For SSI, the maximum monthly amounts in 2017 were capped at $735 for individuals and $1,103 for couples (where just the individual is on disability). SSI is only offered to low-income individuals, and requires a different application process than SSDI, but it can provide much needed extra funds in case SSDI falls short. SSI benefits are also affected by factors such as monthly countable income, which is a resource (such as food stamps) that you can use for basic living requirements such as food and shelter. Countable income is subtracted from your SSI payment.