Social Security has made several updates to its disability program for 2019. These changes, while minor, could affect your eligibility if you are applying for SSDI or SSI, and they might impact your benefits if you are already receiving disability.
The updates include a cost of living adjustment (COLA, an increase in the substantial gainful activity (SGA) thresholds, an increase in the income that triggers a trial work period, a higher SSI payment standard and resource limit, and a change affecting the Social Security tax.
If you are thinking of applying for SSDI or SSI, or you are a current recipient with questions about your benefits, a Social Security disability lawyer from Disability Advantage Group can help. We help connect people with disability benefits and have a strong record of winning approvals for our clients. For a free case evaluation with a member of our team, call us today at 865-566-0800.
Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)
Social Security adjusts the monthly benefit amount for SSDI and SSI recipients each year based on changes in the cost of living. The adjustment bases itself on a broad measure of inflation. When inflation is low, the Social Security cost of living adjustment (COLA) is low, and when it is high, the COLA is also high.
The COLA adjustment for 2019 is 2.8% on both SSDI and SSI benefits (some people, including clients we have helped obtain benefits, receive both SSDI and SSI). To illustrate the application of the COLA, if your monthly SSDI benefit in 2018 was $1,000, then after applying the 2.8% adjustment, you will receive $1,028 per month in 2019.
At the end of 2019, Social Security will look at current inflationary trends and make another COLA for 2020.
Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) Thresholds
Since inflation has increased the cost of living as well as wages since the end of 2018, Social Security has raised the substantial gainful activity (SGA) thresholds for SSDI recipients. SGA refers to the level of income that constitutes gainful employment. If you are capable of gainful employment, Social Security does not consider you eligible for SSDI, as the program is designed for those with total disabilities.
In 2018, the SGA threshold was $1,180 a month for the non-blind and $1,970 a month for the blind. In 2019, it rises to $1,220 a month for the non-blind and $2,040 a month for the blind. If you earn above this level from your labor, Social Security considers you gainfully employed and may cut off your SSDI benefits. However, SSDI places no limit on what you can earn from investments and other passive income.
Trial Work Period Trigger
For disability recipients kicking around the idea of a return to work, Social Security allows a trial work period. During this period, you can work and earn a substantial income without risking the loss of your benefits. Once the period ends, you must choose between working and keeping your benefits.
In 2018, a monthly income of $850 a month triggered a trial work period. The income required to trigger a trial work period in 2019 is $880 a month.
SSI Federal Payment Standard and Resource Limits
SSI has different eligibility standards from SSDI. Since it is a means-tested benefit program for the needy, SSI requires your income and assets to remain below certain thresholds. If you make too much money or have too high a net worth, you are not eligible for SSI.
The maximum income allowed to receive SSI is called the Federal Payment Standard, and it is the same as the standard monthly SSI benefit. For 2019, this amount increases from $750 a month to $771 a month for individuals and from $1,125 a month to $1,157 a month for couples.
SSI’s threshold for assets/net worth remains unchanged at $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for couples.
Earnings Subject to Social Security Tax
While not a change specific to disability, the yearly income subject to Social Security tax increases for 2019.
In 2018, workers had to pay Social Security tax on annual income up to $128,400. The tax is 12.4%, but W-2 employees are responsible for only half of that amount, and their employers the other half. A self-employed person must pay the full 12.4%.
In 2019, the tax rate stays the same, but it applies to income up to $132,900. In other words, if you earn $150,000 for the year, you do not have to pay the Social Security tax on the last $17,100 of your income for 2019.
For a Free Social Security Disability Case Evaluation, Call Disability Advantage Group at 865-566-0800
The Social Security Disability Lawyers at Disability Advantage Group can help you with any issue you are facing when it comes to applying for or keeping your benefits. We stay abreast of the constant changes to the program and can inform of anything that may affect your benefits. To receive a free consultation with a member of our team, call us today at 865-566-0800.