For millions of Americans who are retired or are on disability, Social Security benefits are a major or even sole source of their monthly income. According to the Social Security Administration, 4.19 million retirees receive benefits on average of $1,368.67 per month. For 60% of these people, this makes up 50% or more of their monthly income. If you or a loved one is on Social Security or is about to go onto Social Security, you need to be aware of the following changes that are due to take effect in 2018.
The Retirement Age is Being Raised – According to the retirement planner posted on the Social Security Administration website, benefits are being decreased while the retirement age is moving from 65 to 67 depending upon the year in which you were born. The monthly retirement benefit is determined by calculating the 35 highest earning years of employment. Retiring before full retirement age would mean a reduced benefit, while waiting until age 70 could mean a bigger payout once a person reached that age.
COLA Benefits Will Increase Significantly in 2018 – CBS News reported that for the past eight years COLA increases were kept at just above 1% per year while the cost of food rose 1.1% on average. However, for 66 million recipients, SSI benefits will receive a 2.0 percent increase in 2018, this increase began on December 29th of 2017.
Approval for Disability May Become Even More Difficult – While Republicans are touting recently passed tax reform from the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, those who receive disability benefits through social security have raised alarm bells.
To help with the process, many experts advise consulting with an attorney specializing in Social Security or Disability claims before submitting your application. According to SSDI attorney Jason Baril of Social Security Law Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, “Getting approved for SSDI benefits can be a lengthy process. Having all information and documentation organized is key. The aid of an attorney who works in SSDI could mean the difference between approval and denial.”
Such information should include a statement testifying to the disability that prevents you from working, medical history that affirms the existence of the impairment, documentation of consultation regarding the disability and a daily activity questionnaire. “It used to be that the SSA took three to five months after receiving documentation to process it. Now it is a bit longer,” he said. “If a claim is denied for any reason, it now can take well over a year.”
According to a report issued by the Washington Post, 10,000 people died in 2016 waiting for Social Security Disability Insurance payments. Just three years previously, the average wait time was just 382 days. Because of the fewer number of people staffing the Social Security Information and the current backlog of cases, that wait can be more than 18 months or even as long as 22 months. Congress so far has failed to pass a budget that would allow for the hiring of more Social Security judges and staff so that more of a dent could be placed in the current backlog of cases awaiting a decision.
Congress is expecting to make further changes to entitlement programs in 2018 that are still under consideration. Entitlement reform appears to be a huge political battle over the next year. Keep your ears open for any further changes.