Primary Insurance AmountThe basic Social Security benefit is called the primary insurance amount (PIA). Typically the PIA is a function of average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). We determine the PIA by applying a PIA formula to AIME. The formula we use depends on the year of first eligibility (the year a person attains age 62 in retirement cases).
Two other methods for computing a PIA are described at right. Relatively few new beneficiaries qualify for these two other methods.
We pay "special minimum" benefits to certain individuals who've had long periods of relatively low earnings. To qualify for such benefits, a person must have at least 11 "years of coverage". To earn a year of coverage, a person must earn at least a certain proportion (25 percent for years before 1991, and 15 percent for years after 1990) of the "old-law" contribution and benefit base. Tables showing the range of special minimum primary insurance amounts and corresponding maximum family benefit amounts are available.
Old-law Benefit Tables
For persons eligible before 1979, benefits are based on average earnings rather than average indexed earnings. We determine the PIA for such beneficiaries from a benefit table. We update this table annually to reflect
- the latest automatic cost-of-living increase, and
- the latest increase in the contribution and benefit base.