2017 Numbers from the Social Security Administration (SSA)

Most years the cost of living increases, which results in slight changes in the numbers used by SSA in its disability programs, and it is important to use the correct numbers. The following is a chart of some of the changes between 2016 and 2017:

  2016   2017
 Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) monthly earnings
 If you are not blind $1130  $1170
 If you are blind  $1820 $1950
 Trial Work Period (TWP) level of monthly earnings $810 $840
 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) monthly benefit amount
 For an individual  $733 $735
 For a couple living together who are both disabled $1100 $1103
 Quarter of Coverage earnings amount $1260 $1300



Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)2017 Numbers from the Social Security Administration (SSA)

Step 1 of the disability determination process is whether or not you are “working.” SSA defines work as the ability to engage in SGA. Unless you are self-employed, this is simply measured as a dollar amount. So, in 2017, if you are working and able to earn $1170 (gross, before taxes are taken out of your paycheck), you are engaged in SGA and SSA will determine you are not disabled without analyzing your impairments. If you are working, but earning less than $1170, you are not earning SGA, and your case will proceed to Step 2.

If you are blind, you may earn up to $1950 before SSA determines that you are engaged in SGA.

Special rules apply to self-employed individuals. If you are self-employed but believe that you are disabled, you should bring your income information to your local SSA district office. They can determine if your self-employment is SGA, and advise you about the income rules that apply in your particular situation.

If you are able to work only because of special devices, medications and/or assistance that you pay for out-of-pocket, the cost of these IRWEs (impairment-related work expenses) will be deducted from your income when SGA is determined. For example, if you earn $1500 per month, but have to rent a wheelchair for $200 per month and pay $200 per month for medications to control your symptoms well enough to work, SSA will consider your monthly income to be $1100. Since this is less than $1170, you are not engaged in SGA.

Trial Work Period (TWP)

If you have been disabled for at least 12 months, and then return to work, you are eligible for a TWP. During a TWP, you can both receive your Social Security Disability benefits and keep your paycheck regardless of the amount. You can receive up to 9 TWP months. A TWP month is counted only when your income exceeds $840 (in 2017). If you earn less than this, the month is not counted in your 9-month TWP. After your ninth TWP month, your disability will cease in the next month you earn SGA ($1170).

If you start working while receiving Social Security Disability benefits, you should notify SSA of the dates and amount of your income, in writing, and get a receipt for the notice. SSA will let you know what your reporting requirements are, depending on the amount of your income, and will track your TWP. A receipt of the notice may be important down the road, if SSA loses the information and later assesses you with an overpayment. If you can prove that you notified SSA of the income, it will be easier to claim a waiver of overpayment.

If you start working while you are in the process of applying for Social Security Disability benefits, provide SSA with copies of your paystubs. If you are represented, be sure to notify your representative of your work activity. If you are able to earn at SGA levels within 12 months of your alleged onset date, your claim will be denied. If it has been longer than 12 months since you last worked, you may be eligible for a closed period of disability or a TWP.

TWP does not apply in SSI-only cases.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is a needs-based disability program, available for disabled people without significant income or liquid resources, and who do not have an adequate earnings record to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. The SSI benefit amount is the same for everybody, and in 2017 it is $735/month. If you and your spouse live together and are both disabled and financially eligible for SSI, you can receive a total of $1103. This is because SSA assumes you share expenses and therefore need less than twice the single rate.

Quarters of Coverage

To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you must be “insured” for them. This means that during the 40 quarters prior to the onset date of disability, you worked and paid taxes for 20 quarters. A “quarter” of coverage is measured as a dollar amount, and you can earn four quarters per year. In 2017, a quarter of coverage is defined as $1300 in income. So, if you earn at least $5200, you get all four quarters for the year – regardless of how long it took you to earn that amount.

If you believe you are disabled and eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits, please call Maddox & Laffoon for a free consultation.

Scoliosis? You May Qualify for SSD or SSI Disability Benefits

Scoliosis? You May Qualify for SSD or SSI Disability Benefits

Scoliosis? You May Qualify for SSD or SSI Disability BenefitsScoliosis is a curve in the spine that cause your spine to have the shape of a “C” or “S”. It is abnormal and the severity can vary from person to person. Many with scoliosis suffer little effects from it while others may suffer persistent back pain, breathing problems, or spine or nerve damage from spinal surgery or uncorrected scoliosis. Due to the varying degrees of and complications with scoliosis, treatment can range from regular appointments with doctors to ensure there are no changes in the curve of your spine to requiring surgery to straighten the spine by inserting metal poles.

Very severe cases of scoliosis, referred to as kyphosis and kyphoscoliosis, are the only cases that will qualify for Social Security disability benefits. If you should be one of these cases, you can qualify for disability benefits by either meeting the requirements of a disability listing set out in Social Security’s listing of impairments called the blue book or you can show that you’re unable to work due to your limitations.

Qualifying Under a Disability Listing

The blue book does not list scoliosis as its own listing as a disease but does note that if the scoliosis causes severe enough problems, you may meet the requirements of the disorders of the spine listing. Additionally, if your scoliosis should affect your breathing or your heart, you could qualify for disability under the listings for respiratory or cardiovascular disorders.

Qualifying as Disabled Under Section 1.04: Disorders of the Spine

You must have one of the following:

  • -Pain , muscle weakness, limited ability to move your legs due to nerve root compression
  • -Inflammation of the membrane surrounding the spine that causes pain requiring you to change your position more than once every two hours

Required Medical Evidence

Medical evidence to prove spinal disorders include:

  • -Medical imaging, such as x-rays, MRIs, and CAT Scans
  • -Physical examination with detailed description of limitations
  • -Records of ongoing treatment that shows that the condition is not improving despite therapy to improve it.

Other Disability Listings Associated with Scoliosis

Scoliosis can also affect many other body systems. Severe scoliosis can affect your ability to breath, your heart function, and your mental health due to visible deformities or chronic pain. Listings such as these that may apply to scoliosis include:

  • -Respiratory disorders
  • -Cardiovascular disorders
  • -Mental disorders, and
  • -Inflammatory arthritis.

Your Ability to Work

If you’re unable to found by Social Security as disabled under the blue book, you may be eligible for benefits if you are found unable to return to work. Social Security will assess your physical, mental, and sensory limitations using a RFC (Residual Functional Capacity) form. They then use a formula to calculate your ability to work any job based on your age, education and work experience.

If you have scoliosis, your biggest limitation to returning to work is physical. Besides walking and standing, requirements such as lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling may be impossible for you due to scoliosis. Mental problems such as isolation or depression may also make returning to work impossible.

Contact us today to see if you qualify for benefits.

If I Move to a Different State Will I Lose My Disability Benefits?

If I Move to a Different State Will I Lose My Disability Benefits?

Sometimes an individual receiving disability benefits needs or wants to move out of state for one reason or another. However, the concern arises….”will they lose their benefits?” The answer to this question depends on if they’re receiving SSDI or SSI payments.

SSDIIf I Move to a Different State Will I Lose My Disability Benefits?

If you’re a disability recipients who receives Social Security Disability Insurance payments, then moving to a new state will not affect you at all. All you need to do is call your local Security office to give them your new address so that you won’t miss any important correspondence from Social Security, let alone your checks! If you have direct deposit, you still need to give them your address for the correspondence. You can also change your address online at www.socialsecurity.gov/changeofaddress.


If you’re receiving Supplemental Security Insurance, moving to a new state could not only change the amount of your monthly benefit check but it could affect your financial eligibility for benefits all together.

Why you ask? The reason is that while SSI is indeed a federal benefit, many states add on a small amount of money otherwise known as a state supplementary payment, to your SSI payment every month. If your old state paid more of this supplement than your new state, or if your new state doesn’t pay it at all, your benefits could be for less than you’re used to.

Additionally, each state has a different SSI income limit which is also affected by the presence or non presence of each state’s state supplementary payment. It can be quite complicated so, for more information, contact your Social Security office.

Contact Your Social Security Office

If you have any questions or concerns about your eligibility for benefits or the amount you’ll be receiving if and when you move, call your local office. There, a claims representative can help you calculate any changes.


Local Disability Attorneys Versus National Ones

ABLE Act of 2014

The Appealing Process of Disability