Published on: July 21, 2015
Have you checked your recent monthly disability payment from the SSA and found the amount isn’t what it was before? While an increase may not seem like a problem, the opposite poses potential problems. In the event that your monthly SSD payments are decreasing, you may be wondering why this is the case.
Recall when you submitted your application; what was your working status, or your finances like? Presumably, you wouldn’t be working, or your source of income would be limited, which is why you have disability benefits in the first place. Before delving too far, realize there are major differences in how the SSDI and SSI programs look at income.
If any of these factors have changed, it could warrant a possible decrease in your benefits.
Whether it’s SSDI or SSI, both can be affected if you are making what the SSA considers “substantial” income. This links directly to substantial gainful activity (SGA), which the SSA states “is used to describe a level of work activity and earnings.” If you are able to do significant physical and/or mental activities and earn a certain amount, you won’t be eligible for benefits – this includes if you are currently receiving them.
In 2015, the SGA amount for non-blind individuals is $1,090
The SGA amount for blind individuals is $1,820
Explicitly, for SSDI you don’t have a limit on your assets or unearned income, but it is money you earn through working that is monitored. On the other hand, SSI is scrutinized due to its need-based nature for income—the countable individual income limit is $733 per month with a $2,000 asset limit. Anything over this can affect your benefits. Make sure you consult with a disability advocate to see if your benefit amount changes, as there are a multitude of factors that influence your SSI payments in conjunction with what you earn (whether earned or unearned income).
Any time your work status changes, you should always contact the SSA, because there are trial work periods for SSDI and Ticket to Work programs for SSI in which they allow you to continue earning benefits while testing your ability to work.
Exceptions and Income Limits
What constitutes unearned income? Things like pension, Veterans’ benefits, and life insurance payouts and court settlements for tort actions are unaffected when talking about SSDI benefits.
Other factors, however, can affect your income amount for SSDI, including, but not limited to:
Retirement benefits (you can’t receive disability and retirement benefits simultaneously)
Workers’ Compensation (both WC and your benefits can’t exceed 80% of what you average wages were before you became disabled)
Marital status (for Disabled Adult Child's Benefits only)
For SSI, there are specific income and asset limits, and if your amount goes over, your benefits will cease. This means any income increase, provided shelter or provisions, or spouse income count toward calculating your income amount. Determining the income amount can be involved and difficult, so seek assistance if you feel like you are approaching the income limit and are worried your payments may stop.
In doing research with this question, it’s important to go to the source with a trained disability expert rather than make potentially disastrous assumptions. There are always exceptions to every rule, and dealing with income calculations is no easy task. The important thing to take away from this is you aren’t alone—help is only a phone call or email away. If we didn’t answer your question in this article, we are ready to do so in-person or over the phone. Contact a representative today, and we will help you pinpoint why your SSD payments are decreasing today.