What Are the Changes to Social Security Disability Benefits for 2019?

Each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) updates its rules for receiving Social Security benefits. This includes the benefits for retirees claiming Social Security, but also for disabled Americans receiving benefits for their conditions. The Pennsylvania and New Jersey disability lawyers at Young Marr & Associates explain some of the changes you may see coming in 2019. If you or a loved one has recently become disabled, our attorneys may be able to help you seek disability benefits from the SSA that can help support you and your family in your time of need.

2019 Social Security Earnings Limit

One of the biggest changes is a change to the income limit for disability recipients. Each year, the SSA updates this threshold, which greatly affects the standards and definitions for what is considered “disabled” and when disabled workers can seek benefits.

The SSA’s definition of “disabled” states that you must be unable to work to support yourself. The SSA gauges this ability by determining whether you can work to meet minimum wages for self-support. This is known as “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) and is defined by a certain income threshold. This threshold usually goes up each year, which allows injured or disabled individuals a less-harsh standard.

In 2019, you are considered disabled if you cannot make as much as $1,220 per month. This is up from the 2018 SGA limit of $1,180, which allows workers a more forgiving standard to be considered unable to work. If you are blind, the 2019 SGA limit is even higher at $2,040. This, again, is an increase from the 2018 limit, which was $1,970 for blind individuals. If you are able to earn more income than this limit, you may be denied disability benefits.

Trial Work Period Threshold 2019

This SGA limit is different from the trial work period threshold, which also changes in 2019. The SGA limit is primarily used to determine whether you are disabled or not. If you are disabled, you may be able to take advantage of certain incentives that allow you to continue to work while drawing disability benefits.

One of the most popular programs is the trial work period program. This program allows you to work while disabled, keeping any income you receive. The program counts any month where you meet a certain income threshold as one of the months toward your trial work period. You are allowed a maximum of 9 months of trial work, which do not need to be consecutive.

The SSA requires you to report any income, but especially low income will not trigger activating one of your 9 trial work period months. The limit for when a month will be considered part of your work period goes up each year, allowing disabled workers to earn more income without incurring penalties.

In 2019, the trial work period limit is $880, meaning that any month where you work to earn less than $880 should not trigger a trial work period. This goes up from the 2018 limit of $850, allowing you to earn a little more money. Talk to an attorney if you plan on working while disabled, as many rules apply to this situation including a requirement to report all wages to the Social Security Administration.

Other 2019 Disability Changes

There are other changes to Social Security programs, many of which only affect the supplemental security income (SSI) program, which is used for retirees. Things like an increase in the retirement age to not typically affect disability programs, so we will not take a deep look into these changes. However, other changes will affect disability for you in 2019.

The first and most important adjustment for 2019 is a cost of living adjustment (COLA). This cost of living adjustment for 2019 is 2.8%, which means that people already receiving disability may see a slight bump in their benefits. The COLA is important for updating disability benefits alongside changes in the cost of living and the economy, which can be vital for disability recipients. Talk to a lawyer about what this means for changes to your disability benefits.

Spouses and family members may be able to claim benefits from the SSA alongside your benefits. These usually total around 50%-80% of the benefits you receive. The SSA typically pays disability benefits that equal what your retirement benefits would have been if you retired at full retirement age, but spousal benefits are often counted as though your spouse retired at their current age. In 2019, the retirement age increases for certain individuals, so talk to an attorney about how much your spouse may be entitled to with family disability benefits.

While this does not affect recipients as much as it does other taxpayers, the threshold for taxed earnings will increase. You cannot receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits from the SSA unless you pay your FICA taxes over a somewhat long work history. In 2019, the threshold on taxable earnings for Social Security taxes increases from $128,400 to $132,900. This means taxpayers will pay a 6.2% tax on the first $132,900 of their income (with their employer matching another 6.2%). This goes, in part, toward funding disability programs. This hopefully means there will be more funds available to help administrate and pay disability benefits in 2019.

Call Our Disability Lawyers in PA and NJ Today for a Free Consultation

If you or a loved one is disabled and expects to file for disability in 2019, these changes are important to understand. If you are currently receiving disability benefits and need help understanding these changes for 2019, or if you are planning on applying for benefits, call Young Marr & Associates’ Pennsylvania and New Jersey disability lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. If you are in New Jersey, call us at (609) 557-3081, and if you are in Pennsylvania, call us at (215) 515-2954 today to schedule your free consultation.


Before coming to Young, Marr & Associates, our SSD attorneys worked for the SSA which gives us an advantage over attorneys who have never dealt directly with the internal SSA system. We know the process is difficult – your job is to get better, and our job is to make sure you get the disability you deserve.

Chances are you are preoccupied dealing with a painful illness. You are concerned about your financial future, about how you will get by without a steady source of income.

Read what our clients have to say about us.


“I have already recommended Paul Young numerous times. He was honest, explained endlessly in terms that were understandable. Paul Young guided me through the process from beginning consultation to the end of case. Highly satisfied and grateful for his expertise.”


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