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2021 Changes to SSD Laws

Every October, Social Security Administration (SSA) announces changes it has made to its programs that will take effect the following January. With respect to the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, these changes often include updates on how much money beneficiaries will receive.

For 2021, SSDI and SSI benefits increased by 1.3 percent (compared to 1.6 percent in 2020). The maximum amount an individual who is entitled to SSI benefits can receive without any additional state funds is $794 (compared to $783 in 2020).

With these changes, that average worker collecting disability benefits through Social Security will see a monthly increase of $16. For those collecting retirement benefits, their monthly payments will also increase by an average of $20.

The threshold for substantial gainful activity (SGA) has similarly changed in 2021. Non-blind disabled individuals will be able to earn as much as $1,310 per month before their benefits are in danger of being terminated; compared to 2020, this increase represents an additional $50 per month. Blind disabled individuals can earn up to $2,190 each month; compared to 2020, this increase represent an additional $80 per month.

In a completely different area of Social Security disability laws, SSA changed its musculoskeletal disability listings in the Blue Book, and they went into effect in April 2021. These listings cover myriad conditions regarding joint issues, broken bones, spine issues, and amputations, among others.

Each listing now has multiple requirements that must be met to qualify for benefits. There is a separate listing for fractures that are caused by disease rather than acute trauma. Spinal stenosis has its own listing that is separate from other spinal disorders. And spinal arachnoiditis will now fall under a neurological listing, not a musculoskeletal one.

In all of the listings, SSA emphasizes the importance of documentation from treating professionals, such as surgeons, doctors, and nurse practitioners, as well as examination and imaging results.