Social Security and SSI Disability and Benefit Amounts for 2016

While the Social Security Administration has announced there will be no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in 2016 due to a decrease in the Consumer Price Index (a measure of inflation), other numbers regarding eligibility for disability and average benefits have changed for 2016.

Eligibility for Disability and Working

An applicant for disability benefits through the Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) or SSI programs must be making less than $1,130 per month (up from $1,090 per month in 2015) to qualify for benefits. (Blind applicants can make up to $1,820 per month). Anyone working above those limits is considered to be doing "substantial gainful activity" (SGA).

SSDI recipients who attempt to return to work through a trial work program will have a month count as a trial work period month if they make more than $810 per month (up from $780 per month in 2015).

Social Security and SSI Benefit Amounts

There is no increase in Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for 2016 due to a lack of COLA this year. (The last time there was no COLA for Social Security benefits was in 2011.) The average and maximum Social Security benefit amounts have changed slightly, however.

While exact Social Security retirement and disability benefit amounts depend on the lifetime earnings of the recipient, Here are the average benefit amounts for 2016:

  • average retirement benefit: $1,341
  • average disability benefit: $1,166
  • average surviving spouse benefit: $1,285.

The 2016 maximum Social Security retirement and disability benefit has actually decreased by $24, to $2,639. This decrease is due to a combination of the the lack of a cost-of-living increase for 2016 and a rise in the national average wage index.

The SSI federal base amount remains at $733 per month for an individual and $1,100 per month for a couple, although the SSI payment amounts can be higher in states that pay a supplemental SSI payment to SSI recipients.

Other Figures Remaining at 2015 Levels

Taxes on Social Security benefits, SSI benefit amounts, and the reduction in early retirement benefits for making more than the yearly earnings limit will stay the same for 2016.

Early retirement and working. Those who collect early retirement benefits but continue to work have their benefits reduced when they make over $15,720 per year ($1,310 per month). But in the year recipients reach full retirement age, they can make up to $3,490 per month without having retirement benefits taken away. (After the worker reaches full retirement age, benefits aren't reduced regardless of the any amount of work or earnings. In addition, the retirement benefits deducted while you were working are added back to your retirement check over the next 10-15 years.) These numbers have not increased from 2015.

Social Security taxes. The maximum amount of earnings that is subject to the Social Security tax is $118,500 in 2016. There is no limit to the amount of income subject to the Medicare tax. This number has not increased from 2015.

SSI income limit. The federal income limit for SSI remains at $733 per month, but complicated rules govern what income is countable and what income is not. You can have earned income (from work) of over $733, but it's likely to reduce one's SSI benefits. Once you reach $1,551 in earned income, you can no longer qualify for any SSI. In some states that make extra payments to SSI recipients, the income limit for SSI recipients may be higher.

Student income. The income exclusion amount for students remains at $1,780 per month (up to an annual limit of $7,180).

Assets. The resource (asset) limits for SSI remains the same ($2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple).

    The Social Security figures and limits for 2015 can be found in the 2015 update.