Social Security Payments, VA Benefits Set to Rise Again in 2019

Good news is coming in 2019 for those who qualify for Social Security payments — they’re set to rise again! Recently, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced a 2.8% benefit increase starting around the New Year.

How Many Americans Can Expect Higher Social Security Payments?

According to the SSA’s September 2018 monthly snapshot report, this increase directly impacts:

  • 8 million Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients
  • 52 million retirees, surviving spouses and dependent children getting Social Security payments
  • 10 million Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries

COLA Drives Biggest Increase In Social Security Payments Since 2012

The 2.8% increase is due to this year’s cost-of-living adjustment (also known as COLA). This adjustment based on quarterly inflation rates is required under federal law. The coming raise is a little bit higher than the 2% 2018 COLA increase. In fact, it’s the largest increase since 2012, when that year’s COLA increased Social Security payments by 3.6%. So how much more money does this actually mean? The maximum SSI benefit amount goes up $21, increasing from $750/month to $771 on December 31, 2018. Couples that qualify for maximum SSI benefits will see $32 added to their checks, growing from $1,125 to $1,157/month.

And since some states provide additional benefits for federal SSI recipients, their payments may grow even more. Ask your local Social Security office if your state provides additional money for SSI beneficiaries. Increased SSDI and Social Security payments to retirees will begin in January 2019. According to the SSA’s COLA 2019 fact sheet, the 2.8% increase adds $39 to retired Americans’ average monthly checks. Average monthly Social Security payments for disabled workers will jump from $1,200 to $1,234.

Other 2019 Changes Aim to Stabilize Future Social Security Payments

The highest wage amount subject to Social Security taxes (also known as the “maximum taxable earnings cap”) is also changing. Thanks to the 2019 COLA, this maximum taxable wage amount jumps from $128,400 to $132,900. Other changes include raising the substantial gainful activity (SGA) threshold from $1,180 to $1,220/month for SSDI claimants. The monthly income limit for blind SSDI claimants will also rise from $1,970 to $2,040.

This last change applies only to people born in 1957: Your full retirement age (FRA) is now two months later. That means applying six months after your 66th birthday to get the maximum amount in Social Security payments. However, many people turning 62 in 2019 may wish to apply for reduced Social Security payments instead of SSDI. Be warned, though! Once the SSA approves your early retirement request, you’ll get permanently reduced Social Security payments each month for life. That means what you collect at 62 won’t increase once you reach your FRA, except for any COLA increases.

Disabled Veterans Can Also Expect 2.8% Benefits Raise In 2019

VA disability or pension beneficiaries, dependents and survivors also get a 2.8% COLA increase. Disabled vets will receive 2.8% more starting in December 2018. Currently, the max VA disability compensation payment is $2,800/month. The 2.8% COLA adds another $78 to that monthly VA disability benefit (or $936 annually).

If you have questions about applying for Social Security disability benefits or appealing your denial, we’re here to help. We’ll connect you with an experienced Social Security attorney in your current ZIP code. All disability lawyers work on contingency, so you’ll never pay for professional help unless they help you win. And if you do win benefits with that lawyer’s help, you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.

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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.