SSA logo: link to Social Security Online home706. Determining the PIA

706.1 How does SSA determine your PIA for first eligibility or death before 1979?

Your PIA is determined from the table that was in the Social Security Act as of December 31, 1978 if you:

  1. Become eligible for retirement insurance benefits at age 62;

  2. Have a period of disability established; or

  3. Become eligible for survivors' insurance benefits on the basis of death before 1979.

This PIA is increased in December of each year in which there is a cost-of-living increase in benefit rates. (Before 1983, the increase was effective in June.) The table and the increases are not included in this Handbook because it is not possible to keep them current.

706.2 How does SSA determine your PIA for first eligibility or death after 1978?

Your PIA is determined by applying a mathematical formula to the AIME if you either:

  1. Become eligible for retirement insurance benefits at age 62;

  2. Have a period of disability established; or

  3. Become eligible for survivors' insurance benefits on the basis of death in 1979 or later.

The PIA, with first eligibility in 2010, equals the sum of the following:

  1. 90 percent of the first $761 of the AIME, plus

  2. 32 percent of the amount above $761 up through $4,586, plus

  3. 15 percent of any amount in excess of $4,586.

The dollar amounts at which these percentages change are called bend points. The bend points change for each year of eligibility based on the changes in your average total wages from the previous indexing year. The new bend points apply if you first become eligible or die in that year. They will remain applicable to PIA determinations in later recomputations.

Cost-of-living increases (see §719) are applied to compute your PIA beginning with the first year of eligibility, regardless of when you become entitled to benefits. Cost-of-living increases are not considered before the year of first eligibility, since your earnings in most of these years are “indexed” in computing the AIME.

706.3 How does SSA determine your PIA for first eligibility in years between 1979 and 1984?

You are guaranteed a PIA that is at least the amount computed under the pre-1979 method if you meet the following conditions:

  1. You have at least one year of covered earnings before 1979;

  2. You were not eligible for retirement or disability insurance benefits before 1979; and

  3. You first became eligible for retirement insurance benefits between 1979 and 1984.

Your AME and PIA in effect on December 31, 1978, apply. Again, cost-of-living increases are effective beginning with the year of your first eligibility. This also applies to the survivors of a worker who was eligible but did not apply for benefits under this provision.

706.4 How is your PIA determined for entitlement at any time where the old-start formula yields a higher payment?

If the old-start formula (§§707-710) produces a higher payment, your PIA is based on the AME. This is determined from the December 31, 1978, table with cost-of-living increases beginning with the year of your first eligibility.

706.5 How does SSA determine the PIA if you had a prior period of disability?

If you had a prior entitlement to disability insurance benefits and you: (1) become eligible for a retirement insurance benefit; (2) become re-eligible for a disability insurance benefit; or (3) die, your PIA is the higher of the one computed as if you were first eligible after 1978, or the former PIA. (See (706.2) above.) This applies if more than 12 months have passed since your last entitlement to disability insurance benefits.

If fewer than 12 months have passed since your last disability entitlement after 1978, your current PIA is the higher of the former PIA (a continuation of the former PIA), or a new PIA computed under current methods.

Last Revised: Apr. 19, 2010