UNEXPECTED changes can sometimes occur that will improve the benefits you receive from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
But generally, benefits increase each year due to a cost of living adjustment (COLA), which measures the consumer price index.
In other words, SSA applicants are generally protected against rising costs.
For example, the COLA jumped 5.9% this year, bringing the average Social Security benefit to $1,657.
But surprises happen (sometimes unfortunate ones) that could lead to higher benefits.
We reveal them below.
When a spouse dies, the affected widow or widower can claim a lump sum payment of $255.
Also, your monthly benefit may increase if you earned less Social Security benefits than your deceased spouse.
This is part of the survivor benefits, which a widow or widower can get if they are 60 or older.
Benefits would range from 71.5% to 100% of your deceased spouse’s pension benefit, depending on age.
The closer you get to age 60, the less you are entitled to survivor benefits.
But once you reach full retirement age, you can collect 100% of your deceased spouse’s benefit.
The full retirement age is 66 or 67, depending on the year of your birth.
Also remember that you don’t have to claim your spouse’s benefits immediately after death.
You could delay applying until you reach full retirement age.
In terms of how much you can get, let’s say you earn the average Social Security payment of $1,657 and your deceased spouse received the maximum benefit this year of $4,194.
That’s a difference of over $2,500.
Disabled children and minors
Minors and disabled children whose deceased parent received social security benefits could also receive survivors’ allowances.
To be eligible, the child must not be married and under the age of 18, or 19 if attending high school full time.
If you are over these ages, you must have a disability that started before age 22.
Eligible individuals can get up to 75% of their deceased parent’s benefit.
It’s also possible that grandchildren and stepchildren are also eligible under “certain circumstances,” according to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Your disability worsens and affects your income
People with disabilities can apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
To qualify for SSI, individuals cannot have more than $2,000 in assets, while couples can have up to $3,000.
For SSDI, the monthly income limit is $1,350 for most claimants — but it’s raised to $2,260 if a beneficiary is blind.
In 2022, the average SSI benefit is $621 per month this year, up $34 from 2021. That works out to $7,452 each year.
When it comes to SSDI, the amount you receive is a bit more complicated.
The amount of the benefit will depend on the age at which you became disabled, your employment history (including the average amount of income you earned) and the qualifying period.
“There really isn’t a maximum disability worker benefit amount that matches the maximum retired worker benefit amounts that we publish on our website,” the SSA previously told The Sun.
No matter how much you receive from either or both programs, your benefits may increase if your disability gets worse over time.
If this happens, it could force you to work fewer hours, which would impact your earnings, meaning you could be eligible for a higher benefit.
Also keep in mind that you could lose these benefits if your condition improves to the point where you no longer qualify as disabled.
To learn more about retirement benefits, we reveal five ways to boost your Social Security checks at any age.
Plus, see the exact dates Social Security, SSI, and SSDI are paid each month this year.
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