Social Security's "cost-of-living adjustment" (COLA) for 2023 increases disability payments for SSDI and SSI recipients by 8.7%. This is the largest increase since the early 1980s and is due to rampant increases in prices (inflation) over the past year. Along with the benefit increases for the year 2023, various numbers having to do with eligibility have also changed.
Social Security will start sending the increased payments to Social Security recipients in January 2023 and to SSI recipients on December 30, 2022.
Individual benefit amount. Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) payments have increased by 8.7% for 2023. Social Security expects the average monthly SSDI benefit to be $1,483 in 2023, but the most anyone can receive is $3,627 per month (there is no minimum amount).
Dependent benefit amounts. Benefit amounts for the spouses and children of disabled workers have also increased by 8.7%. The average amount received by a disability recipient with a spouse and one or more children is now $2,616.
SSDI income limits. Social Security will consider you for SSDI benefits only if you aren't working or if you're making less than $1,470 per month from working (up from $1,350 in 2022). But if you're legally blind, you can make up to $2,460 per month. These are the "substantial gainful activity" (SGA) limits.
SSDI unearned income 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).
Number of work credits. 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).
Income per credit. The amount of income needed to earn a credit for one calendar quarter of Social Security coverage has increased in 2023, to $1,640, but you can only earn four credits per year. (See our article on SSDI work credits for more information.)
Federal monthly SSI payment. The new federal payment for disabled SSI recipients is $914 per month. For married couples who live together and who both receive SSI, the monthly payment is $1,371. Some people may receive less if they receive free rent or food from relatives, or if they're making any income.
State supplementary payments. 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 2023, but many have not.
SSI income limit when you apply. When you apply for SSI, you can't be making more than $1,470 per month from working. But if you're legally blind, you can't be making more than $2,460 per month.
After you've started receiving SSI benefits, you're no longer prevented from making above $1,470 (or $2,460 for those who are blind or have low vision)—those are the SGA limits and they no longer apply.
SSI income limit after approval. The SSI income limit applies after you've started receiving benefits. Here's how it works. Any income you have (earned income like wages or unearned income like gifts) over $914 will reduce your benefit. But Social Security doesn't count over half of the income you receive from work.
In 2023, for example, if you make $625 per month and you live on your own, your SSI benefit would be $644 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 $219. (The way the math works is that you can make $1,912 before your SSI payment is reduced to zero.)
Student income exclusion. For students who receive SSI, the income exclusion amount is $2,220 per month, up to an annual limit of $8,950.
SSI asset limit. The resource limits for SSI remain the same as last year: $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple.
Social Security allows disability lawyers (and nonlawyer disability advocates) to charge clients a fee if they win their disability claim. Social Security has to approve every fee agreement, but a representative can charge a fee of 25% of a client's past-due benefits (back pay). That fee is subject to a cap, which is raised every five to ten years, or more.
As of December 2022, the maximum fee has increased to $7,200, up from $6,000.
Updated December 2, 2022