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Social Security Increases Earnings Limit for Beneficiaries with Disabilities

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Wednesday, June 30, 1999 --- Cathy Noe/John Trollinger
For Immediate Release --- 410-965-8904 FAX 410-966-9973
SSA Press Office 4-H-9 West High Rise 6401 Security Blvd. Baltimore, MD 21235

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News Release

Social Security Increases Earnings Limit for Beneficiaries with Disabilities

Kenneth S. Apfel, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced that the earnings limit for beneficiaries with disabilities will increase by $200 a month, beginning on July 1.

The increase in the earnings limit to $700 - known as substantial gainful activity (SGA) -- is a part of the Clinton Administration's initiatives to encourage Social Security beneficiaries with disabilities to return to the workforce and reflects growth in average wages since 1990, when the level was set at $500.

"This regulatory change is necessary to help eliminate barriers that often limit the full potential of Americans with disabilities who want to work," Commissioner Apfel said. "It is important for the nation to create opportunities for workers with disabilities who can bring tremendous talent and energy to the workplace."

The term SGA is part of the statutory definition of disability that requires an individual to be unable to engage in substantial work for initial and ongoing eligibility under the Social Security Disability Insurance program and initial eligibility under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.

The disability insurance program pays an average benefit of $722 to 4.7 million workers with disabilities. In addition, some 1.6 million members of their families receive monthly benefits.

Each year since 1993, nearly 400,000 beneficiaries with disabilities participated in some way in the workforce. Many others, however, did not attempt to work for fear of losing both cash and medical benefits.

The SGA level of $1,110 for workers who are blind is established by statute and is adjusted annually based on the national average wage index and is not affected by today's announcement. Since President Clinton established the National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities in early 1998, SSA has been actively involved in a number of initiatives designed to encourage Social Security beneficiaries with disabilities to return to work.

In addition, the Administration strongly supports the Work Incentives Improvement Act that provides the continuation of health insurance for workers with disabilities who return to work as well as enhanced employment services. That measure, sponsored by Senators Jeffords, Kennedy, Roth, and Moynihan, was approved by the Senate by a vote of 99 to 0 on June 16.

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