Every year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) conducts a financial review that can affect benefit payment amounts, qualification rules, and other areas of Social Security disability.
When a serious medical condition stops you from working, benefits through the SSA’s disability programs can help you get by. Qualifying can sometimes be tricky though, and you may wish to seek assistance from a disability advocate or attorney even before starting your application.
Social Security Disability Insurance Changes
Qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) requires a minimum of 20 to 40 work credits, dependent upon your age when you become disabled. Workers earn a maximum of four credits per year.
In 2017, you’ll have to pay Social Security taxes on at least $5,200 to earn four credits. That’s an increase of $160 from 2016. If you’ve already accumulated sufficient work credits, this particular increase doesn’t affect you, but there are some other adjustments that will affect your SSDI, including:
- Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) – all SSDI recipients will see a 0.3% increase in their monthly SSDI payments in 2017. For the average person this means a monthly benefit raise from $1,167 in 2016 to $1,171 in 2017.
- Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) – to qualify for SSDI, an applicant cannot have income from employment that exceeds the SGA level. The 2017 SGA for blind applicants is $1,950, while non-blind applicants can have an SGA of $1,170 per month.
- Trial Work Period (TWP) Limit – benefit recipients can continue to receive disability even while making work attempts under a TWP. There is a monthly income limit set for a trial work month, and any month in which have earnings over the limit counts toward your total TWP. In 2016, a trial work month topped out at $810. In 2017, only those months in which you earn $840 or greater will count toward your TWP.
Supplemental Security Income Changes
Although Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients will see a small COLA increase in 2017, the financial resources limit hasn’t change:
- Resource Limits – To receive SSI, an individual cannot have more than $2,000 in financial resources. If a couple gets SSI, with both partners receiving benefits each month, then the limit for their combined resources cannot exceed $3,000.
- COLA – As far as the COLA increase for 2017 SSI goes, individuals can receive a maximum of $735 a month, while the combined SSI of a couple can’t be any higher than $1,103.
Applying for Benefits and Getting Help with Your Claim
Disability benefits applications can be completed at the local SSA office or online, via the SSA’s website. The online application fulfills the requirements for filing an SSDI claim, but it is only part of the process for SSI. A personal interview will still be necessary to finalize your SSI application. For this interview, you may need to visit the local office, or in some cases, you may receive a call from the SSA instead.
Before filing for either benefit program though, you may wish to consider speaking with a disability attorney or advocate. He or she can help you prepare your application and support it with appropriate evidence, thereby increasing your chances of approval. An attorney can also help you understand how the SSA’s 2017 changes may affect you specifically.