Your Primary Insurance Amount
Your Primary Insurance Amount, which is called PIA for short, determines the amount of the Social Security disability benefit you are getting. Your initial PIA is based on your earnings before you became disabled. There are only two ways that your PIA can increase.
The most widely known type of increase is a cost-of-living adjustment, called a COLA, which applies to all Social Security beneficiaries and which takes effect the December of the year in which there has been an increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. For example, in 2014 the Index rose 1.7%, so the December 2014 Social Security benefits (paid in January 2015) went up 1.7%. There was no increase in the Consumer Price Index in 2015, therefore, there was no COLA increase in benefits for 2016.
Recalculation for Later Work Earnings
The second way that your PIA can rise is through a recalculation of your benefits to give you credit for your previously un-credited earnings. This recalculation is called an AERO recalculation. Here’s how an AERO works. When your benefits start, Social Security uses the earnings information they have available for you through the previous year. Later the money you earned during the year your disability began and your prior year’s earnings, if they were not available previously, are reviewed to see if the amounts you earned will increase your benefit. This recalculation is done automatically twice a year, once in March and once in October. If you are eligible for an increase because of any prior year’s earnings, you will be notified by mail approximately a month later. Your increase, including any retroactivity is included in your next benefit payment.
Other than these two types of increases, your Social Security benefit amount will remain the same, with one exception. If your basic benefit has been reduced for workers compensation offset and the offset stops, you benefit will increase to its unreduced level.
Supplemental Security Income
The Social Security Administration administers a second disability program called Supplemental Security Income or SSI for short. If the Social Security disability benefit you are getting is below the maximum income allowed to get SSI and your total income and resources are within SSI limitations, you may qualify for SSI disability payments to supplement your Social Security Disability benefit. For more information about qualifying for SSI disability, please view our article “What Is Supplemental Security Income and How Is It Different from Social Security Disability?”