Whether you’ve just been approved or you’ve been on Social Security disability benefits for a while now, it’s disheartening when your medical condition suddenly gets worse and your checks don’t look as big as they used to. Many people wonder if they should reapply for disability in case they could be getting larger payments.
Unfortunately, your disability payments aren’t dependent on the severity of your condition. Reapplying won’t help. But you may have other options available to increase your payments.
How Are My Payments Determined?
If you have been approved for disability, chances are that you had to go in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ) during a hearing to get your benefits. That judge determined that you were eligible for benefits—but who determined what those benefits are?
If you receive Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), that means you have a solid work history and have paid into the Social Security system with your taxes enough to withdraw from the system. Your payments are determined based on your work history and what you earn now. Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is the measure the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses to determine whether or not someone is making too much money to qualify for SSD, because making too much money implies that you’re not too disabled to work.
So your benefits aren’t based on the type of medical condition you suffer from or the severity of that condition—they’re based on your history of paying into the Social Security system through work and whether or not your income is below SGA.
The only medical condition that does influence a person’s payments is blindness. This is not because the SSA is unfairly favoring blind people over, for example, deaf people or people with cancer. It’s simply because we live in a society largely based on sight, and having a visual impairment can drastically lower your ability to meet SGA.
Possible Ways Your Payments May Increase
You won’t automatically be able to increase your monthly payments simply because your condition has gotten worse, but there still may be ways you may be eligible for greater payments.
If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) instead of SSDI, you may qualify for higher payments if your worsening condition affects your earnings. SSI is affected by your income, and if your income gets too high, you may no longer qualify for it. But that also means that if your income gets too low, you may receive a larger monthly payment to make up for it.
As stated before, you may also be able to increase your monthly payment if your worsening condition affects your eyesight. SGA is a level of income, but for people who are blind, SGA is higher. In 2017, SGA for “statutorily blind individuals” is $1950 a month. For “non-blind individuals,” SGA is $1170 a month, according to the SSA.
That means if your condition is worsening and affecting your eyesight, you still may be able to supplement your disability benefits with other income without disqualifying yourself from your disability benefits by surpassing SGA. For example, let’s say you had been working a few hours a week, totaling $300 in wages, and collecting a monthly disability payment of $700. If you develop a visual impairment but still feel like you can do your job, you may be able to work an extra hour or two and end up with $500 in wages and still collect your $700 in disability for a total of $1200 a month because your new SGA is $1950 a month, not $1170.
Get the Benefits You Need
If your condition worsens and you’re approved, your payments won’t increase simply because your condition has gotten worse, but you may be eligible in other ways for an increase in your payments. However, if your condition worsens and you haven’t yet applied for Social Security disability benefits, it’s important to apply as soon as possible to get the benefits you need. Call Hensley Legal Group or contact us online for a free consultation. Get an Indiana Social Security disability attorney on your side to help you through the approval process to get your Social Security disability benefits.