How the 2018 COLA Increase Affects Your Monthly Disability Check

As anyone who spends money on groceries understands, our basic cost of living goes up over time. Legislation enacted in 1973 provides for cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, so Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits keep pace with inflation. These COLA updates also impact Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and benefits the VA pays to disabled veterans. Luckily, the 2018 COLA increase is significant.

The 2018 COLA increase is 2.0% for Social Security benefits and SSI payments. This 2018 COLA increase means the average social security recipient will receive about $27 more a month or $330 a year. Social Security benefits increase began with December 2017 benefits, which are payable in January 2018.

2018 COLA is the Largest Increase in Six Years

The 2% COLA increase in 2017 was the largest we’ve seen in several years—in 2016, the increase was only 0.3%, and there was no increase at all in 2015. Though many welcome this jump that’s certainly bigger than in recent years, others say it’s not enough. Many beneficiaries say these annual increases cannot keep pace with the actual rising costs of living.

The first COLA in 1975 was based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-Ws) calculated on a monthly basis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics; COLAs have been based on this index ever since. Adjustments are calculated on the percentage increase of the CPI-W from the 3rd quarter of the previous year versus the current year’s 3rd quarter (July, August, and September).

Each Social Security benefit is based on a “primary insurance amount,” or PIA. The PIA is directly related to the primary beneficiary’s earnings through a benefit formula. It is the PIA that determines COLA, with the result rounded to the next dime. If the initial PIA is $1,463.50, for example, and it is a 2.0% COLA increase, the new PIA would be $1,492.70 after truncation to the next lower dime.

How The 2018 COLA Increase Affects SSDI Benefits

The maximum retirement benefit is also the max SSDI benefit; the SSA computes both amounts the exact same way. So in other words, the COLA is available to everyone who receives benefits from a Social Security program, including Social Security Disability Insurance.

You should expect your check to increase by about $27 each month in 2018 as a result of the 2017 COLA.

How The 2018 COLA Increase Affects SSI Benefits

Like SSDI, the 2018 COLA increase for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the same amount. However, COLAs for SSI have generally been effective for the month following the effective month of Social Security benefit increases. The monthly maximum amounts for 2018 are $750/individual, $1,125/couple, and $376 for an essential person.

Monthly amounts for the next year are generally determined by increasing the unrounded annual amounts for the current year by the COLA effective for the following January. The new unrounded amounts are then each divided by 12. Finally, government agencies round those final amounts down to the next lower multiple of $1.

COLA Changes to VA Benefits For Disabled & Retired Veterans

VA COLA rates for veterans’ compensation and pension benefits became effective December 1, 2017. The new rates showed up on the first check paid on December 31, 2017. Eligible veterans with disabilities can receive up to $3,527.22 per month as a tax-free monetary benefit.

The 2018 COLA increase affects 61 million Social Security beneficiaries, 1.96 million military retirees, 4 million disabled veterans, and 8 million SSI beneficiaries. If you need help navigating these complex disability changes or applying for any government benefits, you are not alone.

Contact us today to talk to an experienced disability attorney or advocate! They will be able to answer any questions you may have about your eligible benefits. Click the button below to start your free, no-obligation disability benefits evaluation now.

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Laura Schaefer is the author ofThe Teashop Girls,The Secret Ingredient, andLittler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at and