January 12, 2016

Social Security Disability Insurance: Bad News, Good News For 2016

By Brian of Allsup

We have a mix of news for the Social Security disability program as we begin 2016.

Usually, SSDI participants look forward to January because they anticipate a small increase in their benefits.

Unfortunately, there won’t be a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, this year. The COLA is based on the rate of inflation for consumer goods, but the calculation used by Social Security showed no increase in 2015 compared to the previous year.

The fact of the matter is many SSDI recipients survive on less than the national average of $1,166 per month. Many people with severe disabilities must live on only $600, $700 or $800 per month. They turn to food pantries, utility assistance programs and other community initiatives to make it month-to-month.

But there is some good news. Many SSDI recipients were anxious in 2015 about 2016’s arrival because of the Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund. The fund’s reserves were expected to reach exhaustion later this year.

However, Congress took steps in October through the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 to ensure the DI Trust Fund would not run out of funding. This helps to avoid what was described as a possible 20 percent benefit cut for nearly 9 million people with severe disabilities.

The budget act helps extend the DI Trust Fund through 2022. This provides Congress with a few more years to study the issue of funding for both the disability and retirement trust funds over the long term.

Discussions about the future of the SSDI program are likely to continue in 2016. It’s important that more voices of those directly affected—taxpaying workers whose lives are touched by this vital insurance program—are included in the conversation.

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