Rising prices can easily erode the ability of Social Security Disability benefit recipients to pay for their basic needs. The good news is that the Social Security Administration keeps a close eye on the Consumer Price Index, and they have made upward adjustments to make life a bit easier for many disabled Americans.
From the third quarter of 2011 through the third quarter of 2012, the Consumer Price Index rose, generating a 1.7 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to Social Security benefits across the board. However, at the same time, certain thresholds also increased. According to the Social Security Administration, the increase affected when claimants qualify for benefits and how long they continue to receive them, based on two thresholds:
Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). The Social Security Administration considers the ability of claimants to engage in SGA based on their monthly earnings, less any costs they incur that are associated with working with impairment. In 2013, this threshold increased for non-blind individuals from $1,010 to $1,040 per month. Blind workers can now earn $1,740 per month, up from $1,690 in 2013.
Trial Work Period (TWP). Individuals currently receiving benefits can test their ability to return to work without losing benefits for at least nine months, which do not have to be consecutive. Each month when they earn more than a set threshold adds one month to the TWP. In 2012, monthly earnings above $720 qualified for a TWP month. In 2013, that trigger amount increased to $750.
Whether you need to apply for Social Security Disability benefits or face a loss of benefits, these two changes should make it somewhat easier to obtain the benefits you need. However, the process continues to be fraught with challenges due to an overburdened system.