The amount that you receive in your monthly Social Security disability check is not stagnant. However, you will not qualify for an increase due to a change in the severity of your symptoms or based on any other individual criteria.

But You May Be Entitled to an Annual COLA Increase

COLA stands for cost of living adjustment. Each year the Social Security Administration is required to look at the Consumer Price Index from the third quarter of the previous year to the third quarter of the current year in order to determine if a cost of living adjustment should be made for Social Security disability checks in the following year. The Social Security Administration then decides whether or not to change the monthly amount of benefits.

After studying the Consumer Price Index from third quarter 2016 through third quarter 2017, the Social Security Administration decided to increase Social Security disability benefits by two percent for 2018. According to the Social Security Administration, that means that the estimated average monthly Social Security disability checks will increase from $1,173 in 2017 to $1,197 in 2018.

Other Changes Are Also Coming

The Consumer Price Index not only impacts monthly checks but also other elements of the Social Security disability program. For example, the amount of money that is determined to be substantial gainful activity and the amount of money that can be earned during a trial work period have changed. Specifically,

  • In 2018, the substantial gainful activity threshold for non-blind workers is $1,180 per month. In 2017, the amount was $1,170 per month.
  • In 2018, the substantial gainful activity threshold for blind workers is $1,970 per month. In 2017, the amount was $1,950 per month.
  • In 2018, $850 per month can be earned during a trial work period. In 2017, the amount was $840 per month.

These numbers will be in effect for 2018. Late this year, the Social Security Administration will review the number again and make a new determination for 2019.

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by Carl M. Weisbrod
Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law

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