The size of your Social Security Disability benefit isn't based on the severity of your medical condition. It's based on your average earnings over a period of time that is set by law: the number of years that you could be expected to have worked under Social Security.
Here's a basic description of how it works. Brace yourself -- it's mind-bendingly complicated!
First, you must have met certain work requirements to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Regardless of the age at which you become disabled, you must have as many Social Security credits as the number of calendar years after the year you turned 21 and before the year when you became disabled.
No, I can't figure that out, either!
But the Social Security Administration tells me it means that a person who was disabled at age 34 must have at least 12 credits. (Let's see...How many calendar years have passed since the year in which the 34 year-old turned 21? Okay, twelve!)
Second, if you became disabled at age 31 or later, you must have earned 20 Social Security credits (5 years of work under Social Security) during the 10-year period ending with the calendar quarter in which he became disabled.
"For example, a 34-year-old person disabled in December 1999 must have worked at least 5 years between December 1989 and 1999," says Jane Zanca, an agency spokewoman in New York.
Luckily, you don't have to figure out this out for yourself. The Social Security Statement you get in the mail each year tells you how much you'd currently receive if you became disabled.