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2019 Cost Of Living Increase Will Affect Social Security Benefits

The federal government has announced a 2.8% cost of living increase (COLA) that will affect some federal cash benefits, including Social Security Retirement, Social Security Disability, and Supplemental Security Income.

How much will my benefits increase?

People who receive monthly Social Security Retirement and Disability benefits should get an increase of 2.8% starting in January 2019. For example, a person getting $1,000 in monthly Social Security Disability benefits in 2018 will receive $1,028 in 2019.

The maximum rate for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will increase by 2.8% in 2019. That may result in an increase of about $21 per month for individuals and $32 per month for couples where both are entitled to SSI. Keep in mind that other income can affect how much SSI you receive.

Other Effects of the COLA

Disability Threshold

The cost of living adjustment, also known as COLA, has other effects on Social Security benefits. Social Security publishes a “disability threshold” amount every year. Earning over that amount can sometimes affect whether you can get disability benefits. The disability threshold amount for 2018 was $1,180 per month. In 2019 it increases to $1,220 per month based on the COLA. There is a different rate for people who are blind. Their monthly disability threshold amount increases from $1,970 per month in 2018 to $2,040 per month in 2019. Please note rules are different for income from self-employment.

Trial Work Period

Some people who receive Social Security Disability benefits are entitled to a “trial work period.” This trial work period allows them to attempt work and earn money for a  period of time before Social Security cuts off their disability benefits.  In 2018, Social Security counted earnings of $850 or more in one month as a trial work period month. In 2019 that amount will increase to $880 per month due to the COLA. Please note that the trial work period does not apply to SSI benefits.

Student Earned Income Exclusion 

The Student Earned Income Exclusion, a work incentive for certain SSI recipients, is also adjusted by the COLA. In 2018, qualified students could exclude $1,820 of income per month from being counted against their SSI benefits, up to a maximum of $7,350 per year. In 2019, those amounts will increase to $1,870 per month to a maximum of $7,550 per year.

What about resource limits?

Unfortunately, countable resource limits for Supplemental Security Income are not affected by the COLA. The SSI resource limit for individuals remains $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for couples.​​