Social Security Disability News

April 2010

No COLA

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits will not rise in 2010 because there was no increase in the Consumer Price Index from the third quarter of 2008 through the second quarter of 2009.

Retirement Earnings Test

The 2010 annual exempt amount under the retirement test remains at $14,160 for beneficiaries under full retirement age. Any annual excess is first charged against benefits for the worker and all entitled auxiliaries in January. As needed, subsequent monthly benefits are reduced to zero, month by month, until the excess is fully offset. After the exempt amount is passed, $1 of benefits is lost for $2 of earnings until the year in which the worker reaches full retirement age.

Full Retirement Age Rises

Workers who reach age 62 during 2010 face the impact of the gradual increase in full retirement age from 65 to 67. For these workers born in 1948, full retirement age is now 66 years. Taking Social Security at exactly age 62 — still the youngest age possible — will add 12 additional penalty months to the benefit reduction formula used for early retirement, yielding 75% of their full benefit rate. Note that full retirement age will begin to rise again for workers reaching 62 in 2017.

Delayed Retirement Credits

Despite the end of the earnings test at full retirement age, workers with high income from other sources still may elect to delay the start of Social Security to earn a benefit increase through Delayed Retirement Credits. For workers born after 1942, the credit is 8% for each full year that benefits are delayed, or 2/3 of 1% per month. DRCs end at age 70. Since all workers born from 1943 through 1954 have a full retirement age of 66, the benefit rate with added DRCs is 108% for retirement at age 67, for example, reaching a maximum of 132% for retirement at age 70.

Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance)

For Medicare Part A, which covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing and some home health care, the hospital visit deductible will increase to $1,100 in 2010, $32 over the 2009 rate. After a hospital stay lasts more than 60 days, the daily co-payment will rise from $267 to $275, and from $534 to $550 after the 90th day.

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance)

The base Medicare Part B premium for 2010 will remain at $96.40. This base Part B premium applies to beneficiaries who paid by benefit offset in 2009. $110.50 is the base Supplemental Medical Insurance part B premium for new beneficiaries and for direct-pay beneficiaries. A higher premium (from $154.70 to $353.60) applies in 2010 for Medicare beneficiaries with adjusted gross incomes exceeding $85,000 ($170,000 for couples filing jointly. At the other end of the income spectrum, more than one-fourth of beneficiaries can receive assistance that pays for their entire Part B premium. The 2010 Part B deductible will be $155, up from $135 in 2009. Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, and durable medical equipment.

SSI Student Earnings Exclusion

A blind or disabled child who is a student regularly attending school, college, or vocational training can have limited earnings that are not counted against ongoing SSI benefits. The rates for excluded earnings in 2010 are unchanged from 2009: $1,640 per month, but a total of no more than $6,600 in the year. Note that the annual cap for this income exclusion is only about four months of earnings at the maximum monthly rate.

Tax Rates

The maximum amount of earnings subject to both Social Security and Medicare taxes in 2010 remains $106,800, the same as in 2009. After earnings pass the taxable maximum, the Social Security tax ends, but the Medicare tax continues – with no earnings limit.

Medical Debt Advice

Many people incur substantial medical debt while their claims are pending. Families USA, a health care advocacy nonprofit, offers "Your Medical Bills: A Consumer's Guide to Coping with Medical Debt," available for download at: Families USA: Guide to Coping With Medical Debt..