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Annual Adjustments Affecting Benefits

in 2014 Compared with 2013

Cost of Living Increase. There is a 1.5% cost of living increase for benefits payable in 2014. There was a 1.7% cost of living increase in 2013.

Earning While Disabled. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries in 2014 will be able to work and earn up to $1,070 a month without forfeiting their monthly checks. Effective January 1, 2014, if earnings exceed this amount the Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider the earnings to show "substantial gainful activity" or "SGA". (A higher SGA amount - $1,800 a month - applies to blind individuals.)

In 2013 the SGA amount is $1,040 a month ($1,740 for blind individuals). SSA Fact Sheet: 2013 Social Security Changes, http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/factsheets/colafacts2013.htm.

Why is this important? If a beneficiary earns more than the SGA amount for a sustained period, this could trigger a continuing disability review and could cause SSA to stop benefits. Or if one is applying for SSDI benefits and earning at the SGA level, this could lead SSA to deny the benefit application. For more information see the SSA publication, How Work Affects Your Benefits, SSA Publication Number 05-10069, www.ssa.gov/pubs/10069.html; and the SSA Redbook, http://www.ssa.gov/redbook/eng/definedisability.htm#a0=1

Trial Work Month. A "trial work month" in 2014 will be any month in which earnings exceed $770. The 2013 amount is $750. SSA says:

“The trial work period allows you to test your ability to work for at least nine months. During your trial work period, you will receive your full Social Security benefits regardless of how much you are earning as long as you report your work activity and you continue to have a disabling impairment.”

A trial work period may be several stints of occasional work that add up to a total of nine months over a five year period, or may be a continuous nine months in a five year period.

See Working While Disabled, SSA Publication Number 05-10095, http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10095.pdf

Why Annual Adjustments? Why does SSA normally adjust the SGA amount each year, and sometimes the trial work amount? This is to encourage SSDI beneficiaries to try working, says the agency. They explained in the Federal Register dated December 29, 2000 (page 82905):

"We are revising these rules as part of our efforts to encourage individuals with disabilities to test their ability to work and keep working. We expect that these changes will provide greater incentives for many beneficiaries to attempt to work or, if already working, to continue to work or increase their work effort."

Prior to the new regulation, many advocates would advise clients who received SSDI checks that their benefits were at risk if they earned any amount of money. And people who were working and earning any significant sum were considered poor prospects for winning SSDI benefits. These risks have been much reduced since the new SSA policy was announced at the end of  2000.

Nonetheless, if SSA believes that a person may be deferring or suppressing earnings to make it seem that he or she cannot work regularly, the agency reserves the right to investigate and estimate the individual’s actual earnings potential.

2014 figures are from the SSA Fact Sheet: 2014 Social Security Changes, SSA Press Office, http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/factsheets/colafacts2014.html

2013 figures are from the SSA Fact Sheet: 2013 Social Security Changes, SSA Press Office, http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/factsheets/colafacts2013.htm

© Pds-Third Floor Publishing, LLC, 2011-2013, all rights reserved


[Physicians' Disability Services, Inc.]
Pds-Third Floor Publishing, LLC
Douglas M. Smith, Editor

Post Office Box 312
4848 Lemmon Avenue, Suite 100,
Dallas, Texas 75219
Telephone: (214) 363-5374
E-mail: dfacts@earthlink.net
© Pds-Third Floor Publishing, LLC 1998-2011 all rights reserved


Last Revised Wednesday, October 31, 2012, 2:31PM CST

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