Social Security Administration Issues 2009 Cost of Living Adjustments

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently issued its 2009 Cost of Living Adjustments, which result in slightly larger Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) awards for 2009. The adjustments also increase the Substantial Gainful Activity and Trial Work Period thresholds for an SSDI beneficiary who works, and allow students on SSI to exclude more of their income from being counted against their award.

In 2009, the federal SSI Payment Standard, which is the base SSI award before individual states include their portion, if any, increases from $637 a month to $674 a month for an individual and from $956 a month to $1,011 a month for a couple. This means that an individual who receives SSI can now earn slightly more from work or in unearned income before his benefit is terminated. The SSA estimates that the average SSDI award will increase from $1,006 a month to $1,064 a month.

For people already receiving SSDI, the adjustments include an increase in the threshold for Substantial Gainful Activity, from $940 a month for an individual without visual impairments to $980. Individuals who work and earn more than this threshold amount each month typically lose their SSDI benefits because they are no longer considered disabled, although programs exist to ease the transition should a beneficiary earn more than $980.

Finally, students who receive SSI benefits but have a portion of their income excluded from their SSI benefits calculation (resulting in a larger award) because they are regularly attending school will be able to exclude $1,640 a month up to $6,600 a year in 2009, up from $1,550 a month and $6,240 a year in 2008.

These numbers are baseline figures issued by the SSA before the beginning of the New Year, and should be used for reference purposes only. To figure out how the cost of living adjustments affect you or your loved one, the best step is to speak with a qualified special needs planning attorney. To find one near you, click here. Article Last Modified: 01/06/2009

ARTICLE CATEGORIES