You’ve probably noticed that many things have gotten more expensive over the last year. You’re not alone. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has also noted that the prices for goods and services have gone up compared to 12 months ago. As a result, people who receive monthly payments from SSA—including those receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—can expect to see an increase in their benefit amount. The 5.9% increase in Social Security benefits next year will be the highest in four decades, and should help to soften the blow of surging inflation.
Now is a great time to apply for disability benefits. Claims are being processed much faster than they were in years past. If you have questions about your benefits, or need help with a claim, Graham & Graham’s Social Security lawyers are here to help.
Cost-of-Living Adjustment Reflects Rising Inflation
Each year, by law, recipients of Social Security are eligible for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
The CPI is a measure of inflation. It compares the average change in price over time for what the government calls “a market basket of consumer goods and services.” This market basket is based on information about what families and individuals buy. The CPI covers things like food products, housing, clothing, gasoline, medical care, education, communication services, and municipal fees such as water and sewer charges.
CPI reflects the rising or falling purchasing power of the dollar. Social Security payments are affected by the CPI.
The way the government collects data on this market basket is a bit complicated (you can learn more about it here). But an important point about the CPI is that it is based on the prices paid by urban consumers, and is less representative of rural populations. It is an overall snapshot of pricing trends within the national economy.
For consumers, CPI reflects the rising or falling purchasing power of the dollar. When the CPI increases, the purchasing power of the dollar falls. Economists use the CPI to help manage the economy. Many types of payments, including Social Security payments, are affected by the CPI.
Highest COLA Since 1982: What It Means for SSD and SSI Recipients
COLAs are made to ensure that income keeps pace with inflation. Social Security calculates the COLA amount by comparing the average CPI for July, August, and September of the previous year with the average CPI for the same three month period in the current year.
Social Security’s 5.9% COLA for 2022, announced in October, is the highest since 1982. But comparing CPI data from November 2021 to November 2020, inflation rose 6.8%, reports CNBC. This is a good indication that a year from now, the Social Security COLA could increase again.
The 2022 COLA adjustment means a corresponding benefit increase for Social Security recipients. There will also be changes in payment thresholds, or the amount you must earn less than to qualify for benefits, in 2022. Here are the updated benefit amounts:
- Among all disabled workers, the average monthly benefit next year will increase to $1,358 (up from $1,282 before COLA).
- Disabled workers with a spouse and one or more children can expect their average SSD payment to increase from $2,250/month to $2,383/month.
- The individual SSI benefit for 2022 will increase from $794/month to $841/month.
- The SSI benefit rate for couples will increase next year from $1,191/month to $1,261/month.
Social Security says beneficiaries should be notified by mail in early December about their new benefit amount. The COLA notice should also be available online through your Social Security account.
Helping Southeast Ohio With SSD and SSI Claims
As we reported in July, there has never been a better time to apply for SSD benefits due to faster claim processing times. Wait times for a disability hearing are still below what they were a year or two ago. If you are thinking about filing a claim for disability benefits, or you are working through the appeals process, we recommend getting help now, before claims inevitably surge again.
We may also be able to help you increase your SSD benefit amount through what’s known as a recalculation of disability benefits. There are a number of situations in which recipients qualify for recalculations.