Over 10 million Americans received disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) in 2017. The program grew substantially over the last several years, providing necessary benefits to disabled Americans. These disability changes affect everything from healthcare subsidies to payment amounts as well as asset and income limitations for certain financial assistance programs. Below, we’ve noted five major disability changes that people should know about before they apply for benefits from the SSA. Whether you’re a current beneficiary or planning to apply, find out how these Social Security disability changes may affect you.
Top 5 Social Security Disability Changes Made In 2018
#1: The Maximum Social Security Benefit Amount Rose From $2687 to $2788
Good news for individuals waiting to draw Social Security until after they’ve reached their full retirement age! The maximum retirement or SSDI benefit amount you can receive rose $101 for 2018. (Not sure how to find your own FRA? You can calculate your full retirement age based on birth year.) If you were born between 1943 and 1954, your full retirement age is 66. In fact, if you decide to retire early, you will get a smaller percentage because you’ll receive benefits for a longer period. For example, if you retire at 62, you’ll get 75% of the monthly benefit. At age 65, you’ll get 93.3% of the benefit to which you are entitled.
But this raise doesn’t just impact older Americans drawing Social Security retirement benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses the exact same formula to calculate how much you’re eligible for in Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits. For this reason, it’s listed in the top spot for this year’s biggest disability changes. If you earn over $100,000 annually and worked full-time for five in the last 10 years, you may qualify for up to $2788/month in SSDI benefits if you become too disabled to work.
#2: Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Costs Changed
Medicare Part D is a federal program that subsidizes prescription drug costs insurance benefits. The maximum deductible went up just $5 this year ($405) compared to 2017 ($400). The last time Medicare Part D deductibles rose in 2016, it was a $40 increase. Now, prescription medication costs range from $1.25 to $3.35 for generics to $3.70 to $8.35 for branded drugs. Disability changes don’t just affect monthly benefit payments — they also factor into other costs, like Medicare and Medicaid.
#3: COLA Inflation Adjustments Went Up
Cost of living adjustment (COLA) usually changes every year due to inflation. As the cost of living increases, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must adjust benefits accordingly. They do this to keep pace with inflation, allowing beneficiaries to continue their current lifestyle. The SSA calculates COLA using a percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. The 2% COLA increase for 2018 is the highest increase seen in six years. And since there were no COLA disability changes in 2016 or 2017, we may more disabled Americans file applications for benefits in the future.
#4: Social Security Disability Income and Resource Eligibility Limits Changed
In order to qualify for monthly SSDI benefits, individuals must make below a certain threshold. This year, the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) threshold increased from $1,170 to $1,180 for non-blind applicants. For blind applicants, the limit increased from $1,750 to $1,970. This means that you must make less money than the stated amount to qualify for benefits. Among all disability changes listed here, this one has the smallest impact on current beneficiaries. But if you were just a few dollars away from qualifying for benefits last year, now’s your chance. Time to submit your SSDI application again and hope this claim gets approved!
#5: Max Monthly SSI Payments Rose to $750 for Individuals, $1,125 for Couples
This is up from 2017, where SSI payments to qualified individuals maxed out at $735. Disability changes related to inflation as well as the newest COLA raise also mean that SSI payment amounts went up. For qualifying couples, the maximum monthly SSI benefit amount rose from $1,103 to $1,125. While disability changes like these don’t seem like a lot of money, every penny counts when you’re trying to make ends meet.
Important: While the SSA administers both SSDI and SSI payments, these are actually two different disability programs. The disability changes listed here affect any beneficiaries receiving financial assistance and subsidized healthcare from the federal government.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
If you’ve put off applying for benefits, this year’s disability changes may change your mind. But before you do, we strongly recommend you speak with an experienced Social Security attorney or disability advocate near you. An attorney will help you with your application and get you the benefits you’re rightfully owed faster. Not sure how these disability changes could impact your claim’s chance of getting approved? Our attorneys offer free, in-person consultations where you can get confidential answers that apply to your specific situation. We understand that you might not have money for a lawyer, but you won’t pay anything to get help now. You’ll only pay a small, one-time fee if an attorney helps you win benefits. If you don’t win, you’ll pay no legal fees, ever.
Every year, the SSA rejects nearly 4 in 10 people who apply for disability benefits over mistakes while filling out the forms. Most people can’t afford to wait 6-9 months to get a “technical denial” letter in the mail, even though they actually do qualify. Can you afford to take that risk and delay much-needed disability payments? And if your claim does get denied, an attorney can fight to get your benefits from the SSA during the appeals process. Click the button below to start your free, no-obligation disability benefits evaluation now.
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Mandy Voisin is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Girls of the Ocean and Star of Deliverance. As an accomplished content marketing consultant, mom of four and doctor's wife, Mandy has written hundreds of articles about dangerous drugs and medical devices, medical issues that impact disabled Americans, veterans' healthcare and workers' compensation issues since 2016.