Important Changes for Social Security and SSI Disability in 2019

Changes for 2019 include increases in Social Security and SSI disability benefit amounts, SSI income limits, and how much you can earn from working.

Social Security's COLA for 2019 has increased disability payments for SSDI and SSI recipients by 2.8%. Along with these benefit increases for the year 2019, various numbers having to do with eligibility have also changed.

SSI amount. The new federal payment for disabled SSI recipients is $771 per month ($1,157 per month for married folks who live together and who both receive SSI). Most states also add on a state supplement to the federal amount, at least for some categories of SSI recipients. Many states have also increased the supplement amounts for 2019.

SSDI amount. Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) payments have increased by 2.8%. The average monthly SSDI benefit is now $1,234, while the maximum SSDI monthly payment is $2,861. Benefit amounts for the spouses and children of disabled workers have also increased by 2.8%. The average amount received by a disability recipient with a spouse and one or more children is now $2,130.

SSI eligibility. When you apply for SSI, you can't be making more than $1,220 from working (unless you are legally blind). After you've been receiving SSI benefits for one month, you are no longer prevented from making above $1,220, but at that point, the SSI income limit applies. Any income you have (earned or unearned) over $771 will reduce or eliminate your benefit. Social Security, however, doesn't count over half of the income you receive from work, so in 2019 you can actually make $1,626 before your SSI payment disappears. For students, the income exclusion amount is $1,870 per month (up to an annual limit of $7,550). The asset limits for SSI remain the same: $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple.

SSDI eligibility. To be considered for SSDI when you apply, you can't be making more than $1,220 per month from working (except legally blind applicants can make up to $2,040). As to other income, there is no limit on unearned income for SSDI recipients. Nor is there an asset limit for SSDI recipients.

Also, to be "insured" for SSDI, and thus eligible, you must have paid into the system for a number of years, by paying FICA taxes in a job covered by Social Security or by paying self-employment taxes. Social Security keeps track of how much you've worked by giving you "credits" for each calendar quarter you worked. The number of work credits you need varies for people of different ages, but to give you some examples, a 50-year-old needs 28 credits and a 60-year-old needs 38 credits. The amount of income needed to earn a credit for a calendar quarter of Social Security coverage has increased in 2019, to $1,360, but you can only earn four credits per year. (See our article on SSDI work credits for more information.)

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