What Are the Changes to Social Security Disability Benefits for 2020?

Every year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) updates its requirement for receiving Social Security benefits. These changes affect individuals who are retiring or already retired and claiming Social Security benefits. The SSA’s updates also affect disabled individuals and their benefits. The Pennsylvania disability lawyers at Young, Marr & Associates can help you understand the upcoming changes and how you and your family will be affected. If you or a family member is disabled, our attorneys can help guide you through the process and fight for your benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provide a critical safety net for individuals who are disabled or otherwise unable to earn a living wage. However, the application process could be daunting, even if someone is familiar with the programs. Having our experienced Social Security Disability attorneys representing you and your family will help ensure that many of the common errors do not occur. However, that does not mean your claim is guaranteed. The denial rate for initial Social Security Disability claims remains at approximately 61% nationwide.

At Young, Marr & Associates, our knowledgeable lawyers understand the current changes, law, and what is required to improve the approval of your benefits. Many people rely on the monthly benefits provided through SSDI and SSI. If you have any questions regarding any changes to your current benefits or are in the process of applying for benefits, call our law offices in Pennsylvania at (215) 515-2954 and New Jersey at (609) 557-3081.

Social Security Disability Insurance Benefit Limits for 2021

The SSDI program is administered by the SSA and provides benefits to insured individuals and certain members of their families. To be insured under SSDI, you must have worked long enough before you became disabled. More specifically, you must have paid enough Social Security taxes on your earnings. Therefore, if you were not employed or were only employed sporadically, you will not be eligible for benefits under SSDI. As important as working long enough, you must also have a qualifying disability.

The amount of disability benefits a recipient will receive is based on the number of work credits they have earned and their previous salary. The maximum amount of Social Security Disability benefits has increased in 2021. A legally blind individual maximum benefits have increased by $80 a month to $2,190. If you are eligible for disability benefits and are non-blind, your maximum monthly payments increased by $50 to $1,310.

To qualify for benefits through SSDI, you must have earned enough work credits while you were employed. Typically, you need to earn at least 40 credits over your working life. With a maximum of 4 credits available a year, most individuals must work at least ten years to qualify. For 2021, the amount it takes to earn a work credit increased by $60.00. Therefore, it will currently take $1,470 in earnings to earn a credit. To earn the maximum of 4 work credits, a person will have to make $5,880.00 for the year.

2021 SGA Income Limits for Social Security Disability Insurance

The SSA has updated the SSDI income limits in Pennsylvania for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in 2021. This requirement changes yearly to reflect changes in inflation and other economic changes. This amount is a factor in determining whether you are eligible for SSD and SSDI benefits.

To be considered “disabled” by the SSA, your condition must be “severe.” As part of that definition, the condition must make it impossible for you to work to earn a living.

The SSA has determined a monthly income amount to set as the minimum income required for self-support. This monthly income level is called the “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) limit, and it is the minimum income that the SSA considers “enough” to make a living. If you earn more than the SGA limit despite having a disability, you will not be eligible for disability benefits because the SSA will not consider your disability “severe.”

In 2020, the SGA limit was $1,260. That means that if you were capable of earning $1,260, you were not eligible for disability benefits. This amount has increased in 2021 to $1,310. If you are blind, the SGA limit in 2021 has increased to $2,190. These limits are usually higher each year, allowing you to make more income without losing benefits.

Trial Work Period Limits in 2021 for Social Security Disability

The substantial gainful activity limit determines if you are economically eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. If your qualifications have already been settled and you are already receiving disability benefits, you may be able to earn additional income while still collecting your benefits.

The trial work period (TWP) is a program created to allow people collecting Social Security disability benefits to begin to work again without losing their benefits. You can earn income over nine non-consecutive months, allowing you time to ease back into the workforce. Your trial work period will continue until you have worked for nine qualifying months within five years.

The SSA sets a threshold on the amount of money per month you can earn during the trial work period. If you make more than this limit, the SSA may begin to question whether your disability is still severe enough to warrant disability benefits.

The limit for the trial work period in 2020 was $910 per month. In 2021, the limit increased to $940 per month. Any month where you receive that amount or more will be considered a qualifying month towards the 9 months of the trial work period. Any month where you earn less than the TWP limit does not count as a trial work period month, and you can keep that income without losing one of your 9 TWP months or losing your benefits.

The SSA allows you, in certain circumstances, to deduct expenses related to your disability directly from your income before comparing your income to the TPW or SGA limit. These expenses can include transportation costs or medical prescriptions directly related to your condition and ability to work. The SSA requires that you properly report all income and expenses.

If you are currently receiving disability benefits and are working or planning to work, it is important to consult with a Pennsylvania and New Jersey disability lawyer. The experienced disability attorneys at Young, Marr & Associates will help you understand how these limits and restrictions could affect your disability benefits.

Changes to Supplemental Security Income for 2021

Supplement Security Income is another program administered by the Social Security Administration. Unlike SSDI, a potential recipient does not have to have earned a specific number of work credits. SSI is designed to provide benefits for disabled people with limited income and resources. People who are blind or 65 or older could also be eligible for monthly benefits through this program. Additionally, children who are blind or disabled could also qualify.

To qualify for SSI benefits, your income and assets cannot be worth more than the resource limit of $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 if you are part of a couple. There is no change to the resource limit for 2021.

However, the maximum SSI monthly benefit has increased for 2021. For an individual, the maximum monthly payment has increased from $783 to $794. For a couple, the monthly benefit has increased from $1,175 to $1,091.

SSI recipients also must comply with the SGA used to determine SSDI eligibility. However, there is an additional student earned income exclusion that allows certain SSI beneficiaries under 22 who are going to school to exclude an amount of countable income per month. This exclusion allows a student to keep a greater amount of their monthly SSI benefits. The earned student income exclusion has increased by $30 in 2021 to $1,930.

Cost of Living for Social Security Benefits in Changes in 2021

Social Security benefits often see an annual cost of living adjustment (COLA). In 2020 this will be a 1.3% increase beginning January 1, 2021. Your age and the number of years worked establish your exact disability benefit, but with this COLA adjustment, the average increase in Social Security disability benefits would be approximately $20 per month on an average monthly payment of $1,543.

Your spouse and family members can often collect benefits alongside your benefits. The SSA will normally pay family members’ disability benefits based on your full retirement age. When determining spousal benefits, the calculation assumes your spouse has retired at their current age, so changes to the retirement age are also important to consider.

Retirement Age Increase in 2021

The earliest you could begin claiming your Social Security retirement benefits is at the age of 62. However, 62 is not your full, or normal, retirement age. Therefore, any claims made before your full retirement age will result in the permeant reduction of your monthly payment. If you turned 62 in 2020, your full retirement age is 66 and eight months.

As the law currently stands, the full retirement age for Social Security benefits purposes will increase two months each year until it reaches the age of 67. Therefore, if you turned 62 in 2021, you will be able to collect your full benefits at 66 and ten months. If there is no change in the current law, anyone born in 1960 or later will not reach their full retirement age until they turn 67.

Individuals who delay collecting their Social Security retirement benefits past their full age will collect more than their normal monthly payment. If someone waits until the age of 70 to collect, they will receive up to a 32% increase in their annual benefits. However, there is no benefit in delaying collecting benefits past the age of 70.

If you were working while claiming Social Security retirement benefits, all or part of your benefits could be withheld based on how much income you earned. These income limits have also increased for 2021.

Before reaching your full retirement age, you could earn up to $18,960 as of 2021. After that, $1 will be deducted from your monthly payments for every $2 that exceeds the current limit.

If you reached full retirement age in 2021, you could earn up to $50,520 – an increase of $1,920 from the 2020 limit of $48,600. For every $3 that you year above the current limit, your monthly Social Security income will be reduced by $1. However, this only applies to money earned in the months before reaching your full retirement age. After reaching full retirement age, no benefits will be deducted if you continue to work.

Call Our Pennsylvania and New Jersey Disability Attorneys for a Free Consultation

It is important to fully understand all of the 2020 changes to Social Security Disability Insurance. If you or a family member plans to file for disability or is receiving benefits and wishes to return to work, our attorneys can help navigate these changes and requirements. Call an experienced Pennsylvania and New Jersey disability lawyer at Young, Marr & Associates today to schedule a free consultation. In New Jersey, call (609) 557-3081, and if you are in Pennsylvania, call us at (215) 515-2954 to schedule a free consultation.