Important Changes for Social Security and SSI Disability in 2022

Due to the largest Social Security cost-of-living increase in almost 40 years, SSDI and SSI disability benefit amounts are increasing in 2022, as is the amount of money you can earn from working while receiving benefits.

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Social Security's "cost-of-living adjustment" (COLA) for 2022 increases disability payments for SSDI and SSI recipients by 5.9%. This is the largest increase since the early 1980s and is due to increases in prices (inflation) over the past year. Along with the benefit increases for the year 2022, various numbers having to do with eligibility have also changed.

SSDI amount. Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) payments have increased by 5.9% for 2022. Social Security expects the average monthly SSDI benefit to be $1,358 in 2022, but the most anyone can receive is $3,345 per month (there is no minimum amount). Benefit amounts for the spouses and children of disabled workers have also increased by 5.9%. The average amount received by a disability recipient with a spouse and one or more children is now $2,383.

SSDI eligibility. Social Security will consider you for SSDI benefits only if you aren't working or if you are making less than $1,350 per month from working. But if you're legally blind, you can make up to $2,260 per month. These are the "substantial gainful activity" (SGA) limits.

As to other income (like gifts, interest income, or unemployment benefits), the SSDI program has no limits. SSDI recipients aren't subject to an asset limit either. That's because SSDI is an insurance program that people pay into out of every paycheck; it's not a low-income program like SSI (see below).

But to be "insured" (eligible) for SSDI, you must have paid into the system for a number of years, either 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 (7 years) and a 60-year-old needs 38 credits (9.5 years). The amount of income needed to earn a credit for a calendar quarter of Social Security coverage has increased in 2022, to $1,510, but you can only earn four credits per year. (See our article on SSDI work credits for more information.)

SSI amount. The new federal payment for disabled SSI recipients is $841 per month ($1,161 per month for married folks who live together and who both receive SSI). Some people may receive less if they receive free rent or food from relatives, or if they are making any income.

Most states also add on a state supplement to the federal amount, at least for some categories of SSI recipients. Some states have also increased the supplement amounts for 2022, but many have not.

SSI eligibility. When you apply for SSI, you can't be making more than $1,350 per month from working. But if you're legally blind, you can't be making more than $2,260 per month. These are the "substantial gainful activity" (SGA) limits.

After you've been receiving SSI benefits for one month, you're no longer prevented from making above $1,350 (or $2,260 for those who are blind or have low vision)—those are the SGA limits. But at that point, the SSI income limit applies. Here's how it works. Any income you have (earned income like wages or unearned income like gifts) over $841 will reduce your benefit. But Social Security doesn't count over half of the income you receive from work. So in 2022, for example, if you make $625 per month and you live on your own, your SSI benefit would still be $571 per month. The more you make, the lower your SSI benefit will be. Here's another example: if you make $1,475 per month, your benefit would only be $146. (The way the math works is that you can make $1,766 before your SSI payment is reduced to zero.)

For students who receive SSI, the income exclusion amount is $2,040 per month, up to an annual limit of $8,230. The asset limits for SSI remain the same as last year: $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple.

Continuing disability reviews. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has withdrawn rule changes it proposed that called for more frequent "continuing disability reviews" (CDRs). (The SSA periodically reviews the case of everyone receiving disability benefits to find those who no longer qualify as disabled. This process is called a continuing disability review.) The SSA originally suggested these CDR changes in November 2019, during the Trump Administration, but after receiving comments and feedback during its review period, the SSA has now permanently withdrawn these proposed changes.

Updated October 14, 2021

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