Social Security Disability Claim Concept

The Social Security Administration made news when it announced a 5.9% cost-of-living adjustment in benefits paid through its Social Security disability programs starting in January 2022. The COLA increase affects more than the amount of the benefits you receive through the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs. It also changes the amount of income you may earn for approval of your SSD 2022 initial application for benefits and creates new income limits to remain eligible.

The information that follows offers an overview of changes for 2022 with a focus on income limits that differ from what you could earn SSD 2021. A consultation with a Social Security disability lawyer at NY Disability Law ensures that you have current information about benefits and eligibility guidelines whether submitting a new application for benefits or appealing a denial or termination of them.

Changes to disability benefits for 2022

If you receive SSI or SSDI benefits in 2021, expect to see a change in the monthly payment as of January 2022. The maximum federal SSI payment of $794 in 2021 for an individual and $1,191 for a couple increases to $841 and $1,261 respectively in 2022. You may receive more each month than the federal SSI amount if you live in a state that pays a supplement to residents who qualify for SSI.

The SSDI program does not have a base monthly payment as does SSI. Social Security calculates monthly SSDI payments based, in part, on the amount of your lifetime earnings from working for an employer or through self-employment and paying Social Security taxes on the income.

Working while collecting SSD 2022

One of the factors determining whether you meet the definition of “disabled” used by Social Security is the amount of income earned at a job or through self-employment. You must be unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months or result in death to be disabled for purposes of the SSDI program. The same definition applies to adults applying for SSI benefits as disabled.

The general guideline used to determine whether you can engage in substantial gainful activity is monthly earnings from a job or through self-employment. The substantial gainful activity amount a person could earn SSD 2021 was $1,310 a month, which increases in 2022 to $1,350. If you qualify for benefits based on being blind, the monthly income threshold of $2,190 in 2021 increases to $2,260 in 2022. However, the monthly substantial gainful activity threshold does not apply to someone submitting an application for or receiving benefits through SSI as blind.

Another change in income thresholds for 2022 applies to trial work periods for someone receiving SSDI benefits. Any money earned while working during a nine-month trial work period does not affect your eligibility for benefits even if you earn more than the substantial gainful activity threshold.

The nine months are not consecutive and may be used over a 60-month period. A month counts as one of the nine when your monthly income exceeds $970 in 2022, which is an increase from the $940 monthly threshold.

Changes to student earned income exclusion in 2022

As a general rule, the money earned while working reduces the monthly benefit that you receive from SSI. However, a disabled or blind SSI beneficiary may exclude all or part of their monthly earned income through the student earned income exclusion. You must meet the following criteria to qualify:

  • Disabled or blind according to Social Security eligibility guidelines.
  • Be younger than 22 years of age.
  • Regularly attend school, college, university, or vocational training.

If you meet all of the requirements, you may exclude all or some of your earned income. The student exclusion of $1,930 a month in 2021 increases in 2022 to $2,040. The maximum annual exclusion increases in 2022 to $8,230 from the 2021 annual maximum of $7,770.

Medicaid eligibility and earnings in 2022

Working while receiving SSI may affect your eligibility for continuation of health insurance through Medicaid. If you receive SSI benefits and they stop because of earnings from work, your Medicaid eligibility may continue provided you meet all of the following criteria:

  • You were eligible for SSI monthly payments for at least one month.
  • You are disabled.
  • You meet all non-disability eligibility guidelines for SSI.
  • You must have Medicaid coverage to continue working.
  • Your gross earnings are insufficient to replace SSI, Medicaid, and publicly-funded care services.

Social Security determines whether your gross earnings are high enough to replace SSI and Medicaid on a state-by-state basis using average Medicaid expenses in a state and its earnings limits for SSI monthly cash payments. The amounts will change in 2022, so ask an SSD lawyer for assistance regarding your state.

Get advice from an experienced SSD lawyer

A Social Security disability lawyer at NY Disability Law can answer any questions you have about benefits and earnings limits for 2022. Contact us today for a free consultation.