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Can I Increase My Social Security Disability Benefits?

March 24, 2021 Disability

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program is a federal disability benefit administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  SSDI pays benefits to an individual with a qualifying disability who has worked and paid enough into Social Security and cannot perform any substantial gainful activity (SGA). You can log into your My Social Security account and view your Social Security Statement to determine whether you have sufficient work credits to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. If you have concerns about whether your benefits can be increased, a Baltimore Social Security Disability lawyer at the Law Office of Emmett B. Irwin can help answer some of your questions.

Primary Insurance Amount Formula

Your Social Security disability income is calculated based on a formula. Your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) determines the amount of disability benefits you will get. The PIA is calculated based on the earnings you made before you become disabled. More specifically, it is the sum of three separate percentages of portions of one’s average indexed monthly earnings. These portions depend on the year the individual became disabled before the age of 62. For an individual who first becomes eligible for disability benefits in 2021, their PIA will be the sum of:

(a) 90 percent of the first $996 of his/her average indexed monthly earnings, plus

(b) 32 percent of his/her average indexed monthly earnings over $996 and through   $6,002, plus

(c) 15 percent of his/her average indexed monthly earnings over $6,002.

Increasing Your Disability Income

There are two ways that your PIA can increase, which would then increase your disability income: 1) a cost of living adjustment and 2) a recalculation of disability benefits. 

Cost of Living Adjustment

One way an SSDI beneficiary can receive an increase is through a cost of living adjustment (COLA).  Periodically, Social Security beneficiaries will receive cost of living adjustments. Social Security COLAs depend on whether there has been an increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. Where there is an increase in the Consumer Price Index, the COLA will take effect in December of the year in which there has been an increase. However, when there is no increase in the Consumer Price Index, there is no COLA increase for Social Security beneficiaries.  Below are the COLAs for 2018-2020:

  • 2018 – 2.8%
  • 2019 – 1.6%
  • 2020 – 1.3%

Recalculation of Disability Benefits

Another way to receive a PIA increase is through a recalculation of disability benefits to credit previous earnings that were not credited. Recalculations are required whenever earnings that were within the original base years are detected but were not used in the initial computation.  When your disability benefits start, Social Security uses the earnings information that they have available for the previous year. However, the money you earned later during the year your disability began is reviewed to see if your earnings increase or decrease your PIA. This recalculation is known as an AERO recalculation.  Below are some examples of earnings that may have been missed in the initial calculation:

  • Lag earnings
  • State and local retroactive coverage
  • Partnership income in the year of death
  • WWII Japanese internment deemed wage credits
  • MS wage credits
  • Earnings added to the record

If you are eligible for an increase after a recalculation is completed, you typically will be notified by mail. Your increase will be retroactive to the January after the income that is the subject of the recalculation was earned.

Can You Earn Any Income While Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits? 

Yes.  Although you do not have many options to increase your SSDI income, you may be able to still earn some wages separate from your monthly SSDI check.  The amount a disabled applicant can earn and still qualify for SSDI depends on the nature of a person’s disability.   For example, in 2021, the monthly income allowed for non-blind individuals is $1310 a month and $2190 for blind individuals.  If you have questions about your SSDI income and what other income you can earn, a Baltimore Social Security Disability Lawyer can review your disability benefits and answer your questions.

Next Step: Contact a Baltimore Social Security Disability Lawyer Today for a Case Evaluation

If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits and have questions about whether you can increase your benefits, contact a Baltimore Social Security Disability lawyer today. You can call the Law Office of Emmett B. Irwin at 443-839-0818 or complete our online form. We can answer the questions you have about your disability benefits and whether you may receive an increase.  We work with clients throughout Maryland and surrounding states.