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SSDI - How can I increase my disability payments?

Common Disability Payments Question

One of the most common questions on our disability forum is, “How can I increase my SSI or SSDI disability payments?” Given the current economic conditions including low employment, high prices of gas, increased housing costs and the rising prices of consumer goods it seems for many claimants that although their disability payments remain the same each year the cost of living is sky-rocketing. So is there a way to make more money each month for disability?

Increasing my SSDI Disability Payments

Given that Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is based on the money you paid into the SSA system through your employment taxes and your average income, the more you paid and the higher your income the higher your SSDI disability payments will be each month. What many applicants may not know is that their payment is not influenced by other income such as their spouse’s salary or by the severity of their condition.

If you have been given SSDI than the Social Security Administration considers you 100% disabled and you have been given your full SSDI benefits. There are no partial disability payments and no disability ratings, unlike other types of federal benefits. It will not matter if your condition becomes more severe because the SSA already considers you fully disabled.

So how do you increase your SSDI payment? You don’t. The only way to increase it is to increase your income while you are employed.

Increasing my SSI Disability Payments

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is offered to disability applicants who have very limited income and who are unable to work for at least 12 continuous months. Unlike SSDI, SSI does not require you have worked and earned “work credits” to be insured for benefits. It does, however, require that you have very limited income and resources. Additionally, unlike SSDI, if you have a spouse who is working and making too much money it can actually lower or eliminate your ability to qualify or receive SSI benefits.

SSI is also not based on your income that you produced or taxes paid while you were employed but rather on what is termed the annual Federal Benefit Rate (FBR). For 2012, the Federal Benefit Rate is $698 per month for an individual and $1,048 per month for a couple. That means the most you can receive individually from the Federal Government on SSI is $698 per month (some states, however, will add what they call a “state supplemental payment” which may make your payment higher in certain states).

If you are not receiving the full SSI payment amount this can be because you are living with a spouse whose income is reducing your payment amount or you are living with someone who is providing food or shelter to you. Working can also reduce your payment.

For your SSI benefit to increase, your spouse would have to make less money, you would have to change your living arrangement or you would have to stop working. Payments can also be increased by moving to a state that offers a higher supplemental payment than where you are current living.

Does the SSA ever make benefit adjustments?

There is one bit of good news. Occasionally the SSA will make what they term “cost of living adjustments” which will increase disability payments. Last year they increased benefits by 3.6%. The Social Security Administration (SSA) also has announced that the nearly 62 million Americans who are currently receiving Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can expect their benefits to increase by 1.7 percent beginning in 2013

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