Legal Guide

How To Increase Social Security Disability Payments

When a medical condition prevents you from working and earning a living, financial assistance is available through the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs. The amount you receive each month after you qualify for disability benefits may not be the maximum entitlement.

Most people are not aware of the ways available to them to increase disability payments. Here are some things you can do to get the most money when you apply for disability benefits.

Do Not Delay Filing For SSDI

The SSDI program pays benefits to workers who become disabled before reaching retirement age and qualifying for Social Security retirement. When you apply for disability benefits through SSDI, the Social Security Administration calculates your monthly disability payment based on the years worked and your lifetime earnings record.

If a doctor diagnoses you with a worsening medical condition and advises you to stop working, you should apply for disability benefits instead of trying to continue to work. Time lost while struggling to work can reduce the monthly disability payment.   

The same rule does not apply if you qualify for disability benefits through SSI, which is a low-income program providing money to pay for food, shelter, and other essentials. SSI does not require a work history to qualify, so it pays a maximum monthly federal benefit of $943 to individuals in 2024 and $1,415 for eligible couples.   

Increase Disability Payments Through SSI

SSI benefits do not depend on how much a person earns from working, as do Social Security retirement and SSDI benefits. An individual’s federal benefit cannot exceed $943 per month in 2024, but it could be less based on the following:

  • Income from sources other than SSI, including SSDI and earnings from work.
  • In-kind income, such as a friend or relative giving you food or a place to live without charging.
  • Deemed income, which is a portion of the income of a spouse or parent with whom an SSI beneficiary lives, counts as income to reduce the SSI benefit.

Any income or living arrangement changes must be reported immediately to SSI. The law requires it, but doing so may also work in your favor. For example, if you have a part-time job, the earned income reduces your monthly SSI payment. If you stop working, your SSI payment should increase because of the loss of earnings from the job.

Annual Cost-Of-Living Adjustments

SSI and SSDI benefits receive annual cost-of-living adjustments to offset the impact of inflation. The increase in 2023 was the largest, 8.7%, in 40 years. The 2024 adjustment of 3.2% reflected an overall easing of the inflation rate in the national economy.

If you qualify for disability benefits through SSI, you need to do nothing to receive the annual adjustment. Social Security automatically adjusts payments for all beneficiaries.

Working While Collecting SSDI

It surprises people to learn they can work after they qualify for disability benefits through SSDI. Federal regulations allow you to earn up to $1,550 monthly, the substantial gainful activity limit, without losing SSDI benefits.

As long as you do not exceed $1,550 in gross monthly earnings, your SSDI benefits remain unaffected. However, earning more indicates you’re working at the level of a person who is not disabled, affecting eligibility for SSDI.

Someone who wants to test whether they can return to working full-time can take advantage of a trial work period. A trial work period can extend for nine months. A month that you earn at least $1,110 in 2024 counts as a trial month. The nine trial months need not be consecutive, but you have only 60 months to complete them.

Earnings during a trial month do not affect SSDI eligibility. You keep your earnings, even if they exceed the substantial gainful activity limit, and receive your monthly SSDI payment.

Getting Help From A Disability Lawyer

Retaining the services of an experienced disability lawyer to help you apply for disability benefits or appeal a denial of a claim is the best way to ensure you get all of the benefits you are entitled to receive. Learn more during a free consultation.

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