For the over 60 million Americans who receive monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, 2022 has brought notable change.
The annual Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) is a yearly calculation to ensure inflation is taken into account when determining monthly SS benefits. The 2022 COLA increase this year is 5.9 percent, the biggest boost in almost four decades.
So how will this year’s COLA affect you? And what other Social Security changes should you be aware of?
2022 COLA Brings the Biggest Benefits Increase in Decades
As stated above, the 2022 Cost-of-Living Adjustment is 5.9 percent, the largest increase since 1982, when it jumped 7.4 percent. The COLA increase was just 1.3 for 2021, comparatively, and three times in the past 15 years (2009, 2010, and 2015) there was a 0% increase! So why the huge increase now?
The change in amount is a result of the remarkable inflation that has taken place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and skyrocketing consumer prices. The Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index (as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics) has jumped 5.4 percent in the last year, and these changes have taken a toll on the cost of housing, food, and daily wares for Americans.
Who Is Affected?
Countless Americans rely on monthly Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income Benefits, with some individuals receiving both. And these payments constitute the bulk of many recipients’ incomes, who are otherwise unable to work full time due to qualifiers like age and disability.
While this crucial increase is welcome, there is still concern that the adjustment will not do enough to offset the rising costs of housing, utilities, food, and healthcare.
How the SSA Calculates Benefits Adjustments
Social Security’s benefits are calculated annually using a specific set of consumer price index data, the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or CPI-W. As a result of the Social Security Act, the annual COLA is contingent upon the Consumer Price Index. And since the Consumer Price Index jumped considerably this past year, so too does the 2022 COLA.
But some people, including President Biden, are positing that the yearly COLA should be calculated using different data. There are actually a handful of congressional bills right now dealing with this very topic. The people behind them believe the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) is better suited to measuring the current cost of living for the senior citizen demographic.
Other Notable Changes to Social Security in 2022
- Quarter of Coverage Increase will increase from $1,470 to $1,510. “You earn a quarter of coverage (QC)—also called a ‘credit’—for a certain amount of work covered under Social Security, but you may earn no more than four QCs per year. Generally, you need to be fully insured to receive Social Security benefits, but there may be other requirements.” See https://www.ssa.gov/oact/progdata/insured.html for more information on insured status requirements. Note: QCs also affect eligibility for Disability Insurance Benefits.
- The amount that Social Security considers to be “Substantial Gainful Activity” (SGA), which roughly means working, will increase from $1,310 per month to $1,350 per month (or $2,260 per month if you are blind). The threshold amount for a Trial Work Period (TWP) will also increase from $940 to $970 per month.
- The SSI Federal Payment Standard will increase to $841 per month for individuals and $1,261 per month for couples.
When Did These Changes Take Effect?
Americans receiving Social Security benefits saw this increase in their monthly payments beginning January 2022. Those receiving SSI benefits saw the change on December 30th of 2021.
It’s also important to note that the rate for Medicare Part B premiums for 2022 increased by $21.60 in 2022, up to $170.10. This will change individuals’ monthly benefit amounts, as payments toward those premiums are often deducted directly from Social Security checks.
At The Feingold Law Office, we help individuals in Social Security Disability claims and in personal injury matters. For specific questions or concerns regarding filing for Social Security benefits or appealing a denial, please reach out today for more information. We are here to help!
Richard I. Feingold
Richard I. Feingold & Associates, P.C.
Personal Injury & Social Security Disability