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Social Security Increases Benefits and SGA Rules in 2019

The year is almost over, which means that once again the Social Security Administration has announced an increase in benefits for disabled Americans.

Those receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which individuals pay into while working, will see their monthly benefit increase by 2.8 percent, the biggest increase since 2012.

Exactly how much each person receives from SSDI each month varies, but the national average is around $1,200. That means that the average SSDI recipient will see their monthly benefit increase by about $35.

The need-based Supplemental Security Income program had a capped monthly benefit of $750 in 2018. Next year, the monthly SSI payment will increase to $771.

Married couples receiving SSI who currently receive $1,125 per month will see their monthly benefit increase to $1,157 in 2019.

Unfortunately, many SSDI recipients, particularly those who receive a lower benefit, will likely see their cost of living increase go toward higher Medicare premiums. Individuals on SSI do not receive Medicare.

The other number going up in 2019 is what the Social Security Administration calls substantial gainful activity, or SGA.

While the particulars can get complicated, SGA is at its core the most an individual can earn from work while still qualifying for disability benefits.

In 2019, SGA for non-blind individuals is increasing to $1,220 per month, up from $1,180 per month in 2018. For blind individuals, SGA is rising to $2,040 per month from $1,970.

That's the largest increase in SGA since 2016, and on par with most large increases over the last two decades.

Many individuals who try to work while their disability application is pending are frustrated by how low SGA is, so the increase should help many claimants pay their bills during the long wait for a decision from SSA.

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