Whether you receive additional money from Social Security Administration in any given month could be due to circumstances that apply to you alone or it may represent an increase in benefits to all benefits recipients. In this blog post, we will explain what might cause you to receive more money in benefit payments than the previous month.
Liner Legal Disability Lawyers has extensive experience helping Ohioans and people throughout the country to receive the disability benefits for which they are eligible. The Social Security Administration’s systems and policies can confuse those less familiar with them than professionals like us who work with these matters every day. If you need information or assistance with any disability-related issue, please feel free to contact Liner Legal Disability Lawyers at any time. We are here for you.
Cost of Living Allowance Increases (COLA)
The cost of living in America has been rising at a greater rate in the past few years than it has in decades. As increasing prices for daily needs adds pressure on everyone, people living on fixed incomes are especially vulnerable.
To provide relief to those squeezed by rising costs and stagnant incomes, federal law requires the Social Security Administration to adjust the amount paid to benefits recipients each year to allow them to keep up with the higher living expenses. This is called the Cost-of-Living Allowance (COLA).
The COLA is an annual percentage increase to benefits payment amounts roughly equal to the inflation rate during the previous calendar year. Since 2021, the annual COLA increases have been significant because inflation has climbed sharply.
To illustrate how significant the past two COLA increases have been, let’s look at the COLAs from 2019 thru to 2023:
- In January 2020, the SSA increased benefits by 1.6 % based on the inflation rate in 2019;
- In January 2021, the SSA increased benefits by 1.3 % based on the inflation rate in 2020;
- January 2022, the SSA increased benefits by 5.9 % based on the inflation rate in 2021;
- January 2023, the SSA increased benefits by 8.7 % based on the inflation rate in 2022.
Each October, the Social Security Administration announces the size of the COLA that will apply to the benefit payments beginning in January of the upcoming year.
Concurrent Payments from Multiple Programs
Another reason someone receiving Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits might receive more benefits is that they qualify and apply for benefits from multiple programs. In February 2023, more than 70 million people were receiving Social Security benefits in the U.S., but only 2.5 million received benefits from both SSD and SSI.
The Social Security Disability benefits recipients who also qualify for SSI benefits are people whose annual earnings during their working life were relatively low. When someone files a Social Security Disability Insurance claim, the monthly benefit payment amount is determined by a formula that uses the person’s average monthly income over their 35 highest earning years. If the claimant earned enough to qualify for SSD benefits but had low annual incomes, their SSD benefit amount could be low enough for them to also qualify for SSI benefits.
Unlike the SSD program, Supplemental Security Income benefits are means-tested and are available only to people with low incomes and very limited resources. If someone is receiving more payments from Social Security programs than the were previously, perhaps they have begun receiving benefits from more than one program.
Extra Social Security Payment Might Be Back Benefits
If you received extra money from Social Security this month, one possible explanation is that the payment is for the back benefits you are owed by the Social Security Disability program.
When someone applies for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, they are subject to a five-month waiting period during which no benefits are due. When the SSD application is finally processed and approved, many months may have passed since the claim was filed. In fact, some people wait up to 18 months before receiving their first monthly benefit payment.
But an approved SSD claim begins to accumulate benefits in the sixth month after the onset of the claimant’s disability. The Social Security Administration sets a specific onset date when it approves the disability claim. Each month from month number six until the month the claimant receives their first SSD benefits payment, they are due benefits.
That means if a claimant waited 18 months from the onset of the disability to begin to receive monthly benefits payments, they will receive a payment equal to 13 months of back benefits. (18 months minus the five months waiting period = 13.)
Proposals Are Pending to Increase Benefits
Various members of Congress have proposed to increase the benefit payments to people receiving Social Security benefits by $120 per month, or $1,440 per year. These proposals have not received the number of votes necessary to adopt this policy. If you hear someone suggest that Congress has approved more money for Social Security benefits payments, please check with a reliable official source to determine if the claim is accurate or false.