With the coming of 2017, and what we hope will be a Happy New Year to all, come changes to both those who are receiving Social Security disability (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and those who plan on applying for such benefits this year. Whether you reside in Maine, Massachusetts or New Hampshire, as this is a federal program, the changes I am outlining below will apply to each of you.
First and foremost is a change to one’s benefit rate given the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) from the third quarter of 2014 through the third quarter of 2016. Based on these figures, an Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in the amount of .3 will be applied to your benefit check in 2017. Thus, if you were receiving $1000.00 per month previously in SSDI benefits, you should see an increase in your monthly check to $1003.00. Likewise, the Federal standard payment for SSI recipients has been increased from $733.00 per month for individuals to $735.00. A corresponding increase has been made for the SSI limit for couples (to $1103.00). The resource limitations for 2017 for SSI entitlement has remained the same for 2017: the resource (asset) limitation has remained the same for 2017 as it was in 2016: $2000.00 for individuals and $3000.00 for couples.
For those who are attempting to determine whether you remain disabled from performing gainful wages, it is important to note that the standard for substantial gainful activity (SGA) has been raised from $1130.00 per month to $1170.00 per month (while the standard for those who are applying based on blindness, the monthly amount has been increased from $1820.00 per month to $1950.00 per month). Thus, if applying for Social Security disability or SSI benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will be looking to see if you remain capable of earning simply $1170.00 per month on a regular and continuing basis. It is important to remember, as we’ve discussed previously, SSA will not be looking to see necessarily whether you are actually undertaking SGA level earnings, but whether you remain capable of performing such work on a regular and continuing basis. Assuming one is making SGA level earnings at the time of their application, however, this would be a basis for a denial of one’s claim at step 1 of the sequential evaluation process.