Losing your ability to work shouldn’t send you and your family into financial ruin. Social Security Disability Insurance helps prevent that scenario. If you qualify for SSDI, it replaces part of the wages that your household lost when you had to stop working. Your wife’s income doesn’t affect the amount of your SSDI benefit.
SSDI in a Nutshell
The years that FICA taxes were withheld from your paycheck serve as the foundation to your SSDI claim. The amount of your benefit is based upon your work history and your average monthly earnings over your career. The formula for determining your benefit amount is a little complicated: You receive 90 percent of the first $791 in average earnings, 32 percent of earnings between $792 and $4,768, and 15 percent of all average income above that. Other sources of income aren’t considered when your SSDI benefit is calculated.
Although household income isn’t part of the formula for determining SSDI benefits, you’ll need to meet strict medical requirements before you start receiving your benefit. To qualify for SSDI benefits, you’ll must have an injury that’s expected to last more than a year, and it must be an injury that largely prevents you from working. If you found replacement work, it can't pay you more than $1,040 each month -- or $1,740 if you’re blind. Your disability must also meet medical requirements defined by the Social Security Administration.
SSI vs. SSDI
Don’t confuse Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, payments with your disability benefit. Because some SSDI recipients might not earn enough from their disability benefit to support themselves, they also receive SSI to supplement their SSDI benefits. SSI eligibility and benefits are determined solely by income, and the Social Security Administration does consider a couple’s income when determining SSI eligibility. Because of this, if you receive SSDI and SSI and you then get married, your overall benefit might decrease.
Deeming Spousal Income
Your wife’s income is applied toward your living expenses and income when determining SSI benefits, by a process known as “deeming.” To determine whether your wife’s income will be deemed to you and affect your SSI benefit, deduct from her income $350 for each child in your household. Combine the resulting figure that with any earned income -- not SSDI benefits -- that you receive. The Social Security Administration allows you to exclude $65 in wages each month from this amount. Subtract this from the SSI income limit, which is $1,066 for a couple as of 2013. The remainder is your SSI benefit.
Say you receive SSI in addition to your SSDI, and you marry a woman with two children who earns$1,500 per month. To determine whether any of her income is deemed to you, subtract $350 for each child from her monthly income. That results in $800 of potential deemable income. You can subtract $65 from that amount, leaving $735 in deemed income. The Social Security Administration subtracts this amount from the maximum SSI benefit of $1,066 for a couple in 2013. You are left with a final SSI benefit of $331 monthly.
- Social Security Administration: What You Need to Know When You Get Social Security Benefits
- Disability Secrets: Will the Income of a Spouse Affect My Disabiilty Benefits?
- Social Security Administration: Substantial Gainful Activity
- Social Security Administration: Primary Insurance Amount
- Social Security Administration: SSI Federal Payment Amounts for 2013
Wilhelm Schnotz has worked as a freelance writer since 1998, covering arts and entertainment, culture and financial stories for a variety of consumer publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print titles, including "TV Guide" and "The Dallas Observer." Schnotz holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University.