Changes to Social Security in 2016 if you are disabled.
Every year there are many changes to Social Security. Let’s take a look at what is new in 2016:
Earnings required for a quarter of coverage increased from $1,220 in 2015 to $1,260 in 2016.
Quarters of coverage are commonly called credits. For every quarter you are working before you are disabled, you earn a credit. When you make a claim for benefits, you will need enough credits to qualify. Generally, you will need 40 quarters of coverage, or credits, which is equivalent to 10 years of working, in order to qualify. In 2015, if you earned $1,220 in a quarter then you would be credited for working the entire quarter. Now you must earn $1,260 to earn the credit.
The Substantial Gainful Activity threshold increased from $1,090/month ($1,820/month for blind individuals) in 2015 to $1,130/month ($1,820/month for blind individuals).
If an applicant for benefits earns more than the Substantial Gainful Activity threshold then they are not considered disabled. The Social Security Administration believes anyone earning this much is capable of work and thus not eligible for disability benefits.
The Trial Work Period Threshold increased from $780/month to $810/month.
This means that in 2016, beneficiaries who earn over $810/month are considered to be on a trial work period. If you are on a trial work period for 9 months in a 60-month period then the Social Security Administration will see if you exceed the Substantial Gainful Activity limit and may end your benefits at that time.
The Maximum Social Security Benefit decreased from $2,663/month to $2,639/month.
This means no individual on Social Security is eligible for benefits exceeding $2,639/month.
The “file and suspend” strategy is no longer allowed.
Previously, there was a loophole in how benefits were calculated which allowed couples to receive auxiliary benefits while suspending the primary earner’s benefits to allow them to grow. This was a highly effective strategy. A spouse who retired at 66 and suspended their benefits for four years could see their monthly benefit amount increase as much as 32%. The new law suspends any auxiliary benefits connected to suspended primary benefits.
Perhaps what hasn’t changed is more important than what has.
This year there has been no increase in benefits for cost-of-living. Currently, cost-of-living increases are tied to an index of costs for the average consumer. This doesn’t make sense as those on disability are likely to have a very different budget (higher healthcare costs, lower transportation costs). This year gas prices dropped significantly, which played a large role in keeping the cost-of-living index stable. Unfortunately, many SSDI beneficiaries don’t count transportation as a major part of their budget and were not helped by the decrease in gas prices. A new idea which is gaining popularity is tying cost-of-living adjustments to an index which more accurately reflects expenses facing the disabled and elderly.
The Social Security Administration makes annual adjustments to many of its rules and limits. Understanding the determination process can be difficult and is only complicated further by constant change. An attorney who has experience and knowledge can help you get your claim approved. If you have applied for disability benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation.
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