The Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) annual financial review is complete and 2017’s changes are in. These annual adjustments can have various implications for disability applicants and recipients, including affecting qualification rules and monthly payment amounts.
Disability provides essential support when you’re unable to work, and getting approved for benefits may be an imperative for you and your family. A disability advocate or attorney can help you understand the SSA’s requirements and can assist you throughout the application and review processes.
Cost of Living Adjustments
The financial review the SSA performs annually is based on an analysis of the consumer price index. The financial changes after this review are cost of living adjustments (COLA). COLA for 2017 is 0.3%, which brings the maximum monthly benefit payments available up to the following:
- $1,171 for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- $735 for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), for an individual recipient
- $1,103 in SSI, for a couple in which both individuals receive benefits
This COLA change additionally means there are some adjustments that apply to eligibility rules. Specifically, the SSA only allows an applicant to receive SSDI if he or she doesn’t earn more than a certain dollar figure each month. This figure is what the SSA considers Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). The 2017 SGA threshold is:
- $1,950, for the blind
- $1,170, for non-blind
Under some circumstances, people who receive SSDI can work and still get their monthly disability payments. When working however, certain months count toward a Trial Work Period (TWP). This period may last awhile and only those months in which earnings exceed a particular level count toward the TWP. For 2017, the TWP threshold has increased to $840 per month.
Although COLA has affected a number of eligibility thresholds, the financial resource limit for SSI eligibility hasn’t changed. For 2017, this limit remains $2,000 per month for an individual or $3,000 per month for a couple.
Applying for Benefits and Getting Help with Your Claim
Disability applicants often seek assistance from an advocate or attorney. Some get help straight away, even before starting their application, while others wait until after they receive a denial notice from the SSA. Either way, a disability attorney or advocate’s knowledge of Social Security rules and regulations can be instrumental in achieving an approval for benefits.
A Social Security disability lawyer can help you make a compelling case for eligibility. He or she can assist with the collection of supporting evidence, and can act as intermediary between you, your healthcare providers, and the SSA. If you are initially denied benefits, your attorney becomes even more crucial to success, by helping you prepare for an appeal hearing and by representing you at the hearing as well.
When you’re ready to file for benefits, you have options available. The SSA offers an online portal to apply for SSDI, and this same application can be used to jumpstart an SSI claim. A personal interview is still standard for SSI though, so a trip to the local SSA branch is necessary. If you choose, you can additionally apply at the local office for SSDI.