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July 26, 2000

Catherine Noe, Press Officer

For Immediate Release

410-965-8904 FAX 410-966-9973

Social Security Online



President Clinton Announces
Regulatory Changes Increasing Earnings Limits for
Social Security Beneficiaries with Disabilities

As part of the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, President William Jefferson Clinton today announced three new regulatory changes to encourage Social Security disability beneficiaries to work. By raising earnings limits each year, the proposals would increase the amount of money that individuals can earn while remaining eligible for benefits. The series of changes will affect approximately 400,000 disability beneficiaries.

"I am proud of the progress we've made to advance the goals of inclusion, empowerment and independence," stated President Clinton. "But too many Americans with disabilities who are ready, willing and able to work are still not working. As long as any American is denied equal opportunity and full participation, we have work to do. This is an American Challenge."

"These regulatory changes are part of our efforts to encourage individuals with disabilities to go as far as their hard work and skills can take them," said Kenneth S. Apfel, Commissioner of Social Security. "We must give beneficiaries with disabilities the opportunity to contribute their talents to the work force while allowing them to keep their benefits."

The first regulatory change increases the amount of earnings that the Social Security Administration uses to determine gainful employment. Social Security uses a technical term called "substantial gainful activity" (SGA) to determine if work is substantial enough to make a person ineligible for benefits. Under the proposal, the current earnings limit of $700 per month would be automatically adjusted yearly, based on increases in the national average wage index.

"Many beneficiaries hesitate to return to work for fear of inadvertently crossing the SGA threshold and losing critically important cash and medical benefits," commented Commissioner Apfel. "Automatic increases in the amount they can earn will go a long way to help beneficiaries stay-and make gains-in the workplace."

The second regulatory change affects the trial work period-time in which beneficiaries may earn any amount and still keep full benefits. Currently, the trial work period allows disabled beneficiaries to test their ability to work for at least nine months, and earnings of $200 a month count as a trial month. The change would increase that amount to $530 a month and provide automatic yearly increases. (The SGA limit is used after beneficiaries complete nine trial work months.)

The third regulatory change allows disabled students receiving Supplemental Security Income to exclude more income before their benefits are affected. Under current law, when students under the age of 22 work, up to $400 of earned income per month is not counted when deciding if they are eligible. The regulatory change would increase that amount to $1,290. The change also raises the maximum yearly exclusion from $1,620 to $5,200 and provides for automatic yearly adjustments in the future, based on the cost-of-living increase.

"These proposals follow the trails blazed by the Americans with Disabilities Act," said Commissioner Apfel. "America has always been about opportunity, and we must continue to eliminate the barriers that have denied persons with disabilities access to the American dream."

Social Security pays cash benefits to people with disabilities who are unable to earn a substantial income and whose disabilities are expected to last for at least a year or result in death. Social Security also administers the Supplemental Security Income program, which is a cash assistance program for aged or disabled people who have low income and few assets.

See attached fact sheet.

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