With the new year comes a new a sense of hope for those who receive Social Security disability benefits. The 2023 annual Cost of Living Adjustment brings an extra bit of relief to these individuals. Adjusted each fall, the COLA rates are based on the Consumer Price Index, a measure of the average change in prices for the nation’s goods and services.
How does COLA help those who are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?
The annual COLA rate affects Social Security’s Substantial Gainful Activity level and many of its work incentives. In 2022, for instance, a person eligible for SSDI and earning less than $1,350 per month could still be eligible for benefits after their Trial Work Period ended. In 2023, the new SGA level for disabled workers is $1,470, and for workers who are blind, the new SGA level is $2,460. This means a person can earn an extra $120 more per month ($1,440 per year) and still qualify for benefits.
Does COLA also help Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients?
Yes, COLA also affects recipients of SSI. In 2022, the maximum SSI payment was $841. In 2023, the new SSI rate is $914, an increase of $73 per month. The Social Security Administration (SSA) also ensures that working students with disabilities who are using the Student Earned Income Exclusion can keep more of their SSI check. In 2023, the first $2,220 per month ($8,950 annually) of earned income will not be counted when calculating the student’s monthly SSI payment. This is a real incentive for students to try working.
What does an employment specialist need to know and do?
The most important piece of information to share with your consumers is that, if they receive benefits, they must report employment and earnings to the SSA. As an employment specialist or consultant, you can support people with reporting their earnings, which is much simpler than you might think.
Here are some tips to share with your consumers:
- Report employment to the SSA as soon as work begins and continue reporting each month.
- Submit earnings reports to all agencies coordinating need-based benefits (e.g., the Indiana Department of Family Resources, if receiving Medicaid).
- Keep a receipt if they took their paystubs to an SSA office—it is proof of reported income.
- Keep original paystubs and receipts in a safe, easily accessible location.
- Report other changes (e.g., student status, marital status, living arrangement).
- Open and respond promptly to ALL mail that comes from the SSA or other agencies.
- Contact the SSA for questions via phone, mail, in-person, or My Social Security account.
Regular reporting eliminates complications and sets a successful employment path
Failure to report can lead to over payments, reduced, or terminated benefits all together, which may cause people to panic and quit their jobs. Quitting the job can further reduce income and does not resolve the issue. Quitting because of disrupted benefits does not resolve the issues. Let’s work to not let these missteps stand in the way of successful employment in 2023.
You can help by educating and assisting individuals with reporting from the start of employment. This will develop a reporting habit that can continue throughout their career, even after your services have ended. Add reporting education to your regular employment support, and you will be handing your clients the keys to a more financially secure future.
Have more questions?
Contact a Benefits Information Network (BIN) Liaison. Many community rehabilitation providers in Indiana have certified BIN Liaisons on staff. For a referral, contact your consumer’s Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor or talk to your co-workers. You may have a BIN Liaison in your own agency!
- Social Security Administration Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Information
- Benefits Information Fact Sheets from the Center on Community Living and Careers (CCLC)
- Benefits Information Network trainings page