Tuesday, November 26, 2013

SSDI: 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. This increase applies both to Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, and Retirement benefits.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). 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