I can’t live on the Social Security Disability benefit I am getting. Is there a way I can get more money from Social Security?
See how the Social Security Disability benefits you are getting can increase and how Supplemental Security Income may be a source of income for you.
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, commonly called a COLA. COLA’s apply to the benefits of all Social Security beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients. Social Security COLA increases take 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, but a COLA of 2% is being paid in 2018, based on a 2% increase in the Index for the year ending with the third quarter of 2017. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) COLA increases take effect in the January following the year with the Consumer Price Index increase.
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. When your PIA goes up, your family maximum benefit (FMB) may also increase providing an increase for any eligible dependents you may have.
AERO recalculations are 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. Your increase will be retroactive to the January after the income was earned. Sometimes the retroactive benefits are paid in a separate payment and sometimes they are included with your regular monthly check. Either way, you may receive the money before the explanatory letter arrives.
Other than those two types of increases, your Social Security PIA will remain the same. Your benefit amount, however, could increase if it has been less than your PIA due to workers compensation offset and the offset ends. At that time, the benefit would increase to the full PIA
Supplemental Security Income
The Social Security Administration administers a second disability program called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If your Social Security disability benefit is less than 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 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?