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Today the President announced three proposals to assist Social Security Disability (SSDI) beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability recipients who are working or wish to enter the workforce.

1. Automatically adjust the SGA level for individuals with impairments other than blindness, based on any annual increases in the national average wage index. Since the beginning of the Social Security disability program in 1956, there have been no regularly scheduled increases in SGA.

¨ Both the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs have a very strict definition of disability. The disability must be expected to last for at least 12 months or to result in death.

· The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a technical term called "substantial gainful activity" (SGA) to determine if work is substantial enough to make individuals ineligible for benefits. Currently, monthly earnings of $700 or more are considered SGA and will make them ineligible for benefits. SSA has special rules for blind persons.

· Disability benefits will continue unless the disabling condition improves or the disabled individuals return to performing "substantial" work.

2. Increase from $200 to $530 the minimum amount of monthly earnings for a month to count during a trial work period for individuals who are Social Security beneficiaries and work. The President is also proposing to automatically adjust the amount thereafter based on any annual increases in the national average wage index.

¨ A Trial Work Period (TWP) allows disabled individuals receiving Social Security disability benefits to test their ability to work for at least 9 months. During the TWP, individuals will receive full disability benefits regardless of how high their earnings might be so long as they continue to have a disabling impairment.

· The TWP continues until individuals accumulate 9 months (not necessarily consecutive) of "services" that they performed within a rolling 60-consecutive-month period.

· A trial work month is any month in which their total earnings are more than $200 or, if self-employed, they earn more than $200 (after expenses) or spend more than 40 hours in their own business.

· When nine trial work months are successfully completed within 60 months, SSA reviews the work to see if the earnings are "substantial." Generally, $700 per month is considered "substantial" earnings. If earnings do not average more than $700 a month, benefits will generally continue. If earnings average more than $700 a month, benefits will continue for three more months before they stop.

· For 36 months after a successful TWP, if individuals are still disabled, they will be eligible to receive monthly disability benefits without a new application for any month earnings drop below $700.

3. Increase the maximum monthly earned income exclusion for students who receive SSI from $400 to $1,290 and the yearly exclusion from $1,620 to $5,200. The President is also proposing to automatically adjust these amounts thereafter based on any annual increases in the cost-of-living index.

¨ If persons receiving SSI are under age 22, not married or head of household, and regularly attending school, SSA does not count up to $400 of earned income per month when figuring their SSI payment amounts. The maximum yearly exclusion is $1,620.


SSA administers two disability programs, Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income.

¨ Social Security benefits are an earned benefit. Workers pay taxes into the system, and when they become disabled, they may be eligible to receive benefits based on their earnings. Their spouses and dependent children may also qualify.

¨ SSI is a federal program that makes monthly payments to disabled people who have limited income and resources. The program is administered by the Social Security Administration but the funds do not come from the Social Security trust funds. Benefits are paid from the general revenue. There are no benefit provisions for spouses and dependent children.

· Whether individuals can get SSI also depends on what they own and how much income they have. Income includes wages, Social Security benefits and pensions. Income also includes non-cash items received, such as food, clothing or shelter.

· For students receiving SSI, some wages or scholarships may not count.

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