The Social Security Administration has implemented several changes to the social security, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs for 2018. This post discusses only those changes that affect the Social Security Disability Benefits program. For information on across the board changes, visit the SSA website.

A continued increase in full retirement age

The SSA continues to gradually increase the full retirement age from 65 to 67 for individuals born after 1935. The increase occurs in two-month increments for those born between 1938 and 1959, until reaching the age of 67 for those born in 1960 or later. The increased retirement age affects SSD recipients in that it pushes back the age at which SSD benefits will convert to social security retirement benefits (except in cases where an individual was approved for SSD benefits after taking early retirement, you cannot receive social security retirement and SSD benefits simultaneously.

Increase to the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)

If you received SSD benefits prior to 2018, you should have noticed a slight increase in your benefits amount beginning with your December 2017 payment That’s because the SSA implemented a 2-percent cost-of-living adjustment for all SSDI recipients. The 2018 COLA is slightly more than six and one-half times higher than the 2017 COLA increase, which was just 0.3 percent; there was no COLA for 2016.

A higher substantial gainful activity threshold

Eligibility for SSD benefits depends in part on whether the recipient can participate in substantial gainful activity – in other words, whether the disability interferes with his ability to earn a living. The SSA limits the amount of income a person can earn per month and still be eligible for SSD benefits. There are two income limits, one for individuals who are blind, and one for everybody else. The SSA has slightly increased these limits for 2018:

Disability Category 2017 Monthly Income Limit 2018 Monthly Income Limit
Non-blind $1,170 $1,180
Blind $1,950 $1,970


Monthly SSD benefit amounts to increase

An individual’s SSD benefit payment depends on his prior income, so there is no across the board increase in benefit amounts for 2018 since it varies from person to person. However, the SSA estimates that the average monthly benefits in 2018, when taking the 2-percent COLA into consideration, will increase slightly.


2018 Estimated Average Monthly Benefits

Disabled worker, spouse and one or more children $2,051
All disabled workers $1,197


Electronic Receipt of Benefits

It is now possible to receive your monthly benefits electronically. This option not only saves you a trip to the bank but gets you your money faster, as it is directly deposited into your account on payment day.

If you have a bank account, you can sign up for Direct Deposit by doing one of the following:

  • Signing up for Direct Deposit online;
  • Contacting your bank, credit union or savings and loan association to set up payment, or;
  • Contacting the SSA directly at 1-800-772-1213

If you don’t have a bank account, or if you don’t want the funds deposited into your account for other reasons, you can sign up for the Direct Express® debit card. The SSA will deposit your benefits directly into your card account on your specified payment day; you can use the card to make purchases, pay bills or get cash at ATMs, just like with a regular debit card. To sign up, call the Direct Express® hotline at 1-800-333-1795 or contact the SSA directly at 1-800-772-1213.


Electronic account management

Even if you choose the old-fashioned way to receive your monthly benefit checks, you’ll have no choice but to go paperless when it comes to reviewing statements, estimating future benefits, filing a complaint or more. Everybody younger than age 60 in 2018 will be required to create a ‘my Social Security account’ online.


Are you considering applying for SSDI benefits? Contact our office for a complimentary case evaluation online or call #(847) 577-4476 .