In 2019, SSA’s Adjustments Will Impact SSD Recipients in a Few Key Ways

January 4th, 2019 by Attorney John Colvin

For the more than 10 million Americans reliant on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to cover their bills, 2019 may be a promising year. Several changes to programs handled by the Social Security Administration (SSA) are in place. While these adjustments will not comprehensively transform the landscape of the Social Security Disability (SSD) program or other programs run by the SSA, two in particular are worth noting.

If you or someone in your household depends upon SSDI, you will absolutely want to stay in the know about the modifications that were announced in late fall of 2018.

Change #1: SSDI Recipients Can Receive Higher Substantial Gainful Activity Income

A common concern among people who receive SSDI and want to make a little extra income through limited work arrangements or an official trial work period is that they might go over the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) threshold. Essentially, this could leave them in trouble with the SSA and at risk of losing SSDI.

For 2019, the SSA is moving the needle slightly higher, from $1,180 to $1,220 per month. Accordingly, most SSDI recipients will be pleased to earn a bit more to supplement their incomes while they receive the SSD assistance they need.

While the $40 monthly increase from 2018 may sound insignificant, it can absolutely add up. An extra $40 each month means $480 annually. As a Business Insider piece from 2018 noted, the average Baby Boomer spends upwards of $4,665 annually on groceries alone, according to information from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The extra $480 could therefore potentially account for more than 10 percent of that budgeted expense (or more, if food prices remain stable or dip.)

As a final note, the threshold is even higher for SSDI recipients who are legally blind. In 2018, it was $1,970. As of January 1, 2019, it will b $2,040.

Change #2: COLA INCREASE FOR SSI RECIPIENTS

For disabled individuals that also receive SSI benefits in addition to their SSDI benefits, the cost of living adjustment due to occur in 2019 is good news. Although the SSA announces a yearly cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), 2019 offers the most substantial increase in eight years.  Like the payout threshold, the 2.8 percent COLA “raise” announced by the SSA may not sound like much, but can absolutely make it easier to pay rent, cover groceries, and keep the lights on.

Because every COLA is uniquely tied to Consumer Price Index performance, it may be higher or lower for 2020. However, a quick comparison of the estimated average monthly social security benefit payable before the COLA increase in 2018 to after the 2019 COLA increase for all disabled workers has gone from $1200.00 to $1234.00 respectively.  Additionally, for individuals who also qualify for the SSI program  because they fit the SSA’s criteria to receive disability, now is the time to take action since the earliest date SSI benefits can be awarded back to is the first full month after the filing of the Title XVI SSI initial application.

Getting a Jump on the SSDI Application Process

It can feel overwhelming if you have a disability that keeps you from working, or if a household member or dependent does. Yet the longer you wait to apply for Social Security disability benefits, the harder it can become to pay for the everyday essentials that make life comfortable and secure.

Instead of worrying about the application process or trying to appeal a denied SSDI claim on your own (which must be done within 60 days of the denial), talk with a lawyer who can help. You do not need to navigate what can sometimes be a confusing system on your own. Plus, the faster you get the SSDI you may be entitled to receive, the faster you can begin a new chapter in your life.

Have questions about SSDI? Was your SSDI originally denied? John R. Colvin can help you understand your options. Call his office for a free, no-obligation SSDI consultation today.

Licensed to Practice in Tennessee & Alabama