Cindy Speaker:  Good afternoon, and welcome to our broadcast today. My name is Cindy Speaker. I have with me today Noell Black, a non-attorney representative with Gardberg & Kemmerly.

Noell, how are you?

Noell Black:  I’m good. How are you?

Cindy Speaker: I’m good. It’s good to see you again.

Noell Black: Good to see you.

Cindy Speaker:  Well, I understand you have some good news for us about social security disability. Why don’t you tell us about that.

Noell Black:  Well, I do. There’s a lot of people out there that may have already about it because the Social Security Office has been sending out letters. But for those who are on benefits, they know about the increase. And for those who are filing for disability, when they calculate their back pay, they’re gonna … benefits are gonna go up.

Cindy Speaker: Fantastic. Well, how much is the increase?

Noell Black:  Well, the social security is called a cost of living adjustment. It’s gonna go up 2.8% for 2019, which is the largest cost of living increase in seven years.

Cindy Speaker: Fantastic.

Noell Black: This is going to really help those that are relying on these benefits as their only source of income, and it’ll effect about one in five Americans out there, between people who are on social security from retirement, and disabled veterans and federal retirees and social security applicants.

Cindy Speaker:  That’s really good news.

Noell Black:  Yes, it is.

Cindy Speaker:  So tell us in dollars, dollars and cents, what’s the average increase that people are gonna see?

Noell Black:   Well, they issued statements and they said that the average social security amount is gonna go up about $39 a month, or roughly $468 a year. I can’t each person, because it’s based on social security disability benefits, that’s based on what you paid into when you’re working. So, everybody draws a different amount.

For those that are on SSI, supplemental security income, that’s gonna go from $750 a month to $771 a month. And then, the amount that a couple, both the wife and husband is on SSI, then that’s going up from $1125 a month to $1157 a month.

So, the numbers that they can earn and get while they’re on disability benefits, or before they get disability benefits is also going up a little bit. That’s called substantial gainful activity, which is what social security considers earning enough money to survive. It’s questionable-

Cindy Speaker:  I know.

Noell Black:  … but it’s $1220 a month. And then, if you’re on disability benefits, you can apply for what they call a trial work period and earn, now, up to $880 a month. So that helps people who are on disability, or waiting for their disability to be able to earn a little bit of income without it affecting their benefits too much.

Cindy Speaker: Let me understand that, the trial work period. So you can be on disability, you can apply for a trial work period and you could work part-time without losing your benefits?

Noell Black: Yes, for a certain period of time. As long as you stay under that $880 a month, you can work a job. If you stay under that, then it can last longer. But if you go over six months under that trial work period and you go over that $880 a month, they’re going to review your case and probably cut off your benefits.

Cindy Speaker:  Is that trial work period open to all … everyone on disability, or how does that work? How do you qualify for that?

Noell Black:  Yes, you just contact your local Social Security office and tell them that you want to apply for the trial work period. Sometimes they have programs, even, helping disabled people to get jobs. But if you know someone that’s hiring, if you applied for a part time job and found someone that’s willing to let you work so many hours a week and still draw, just as a little bit of a supplement to your disability benefits, then you can just let … You need to always let Social Security if you ever will go to work when you’re on disability and they can enter that for a trail work period and see if you’re able to do it. Sometimes people think, “I’ve gotten better,” or, “I really want to try to work,” and so they apply for it, but then it just doesn’t work out. And after, sometimes, 30 to 60 days they’re not able to continue to do the work that they thought they could.

Cindy Speaker:  I see.

Noell Black:  So it’s good because it’s gives them a trail. It’s a trail. You get to try out and see if you’re able to do it. It helps a little bit, sometimes.

Cindy Speaker:   Yeah, sure. Well, and going back to the cost of living adjustment, does that effect any other benefits that the recipients receive?

Noell Black:  Yes, the Medicare Part B, which is what covers things like physicians visits, diagnostic services, outpatient hospital services, that also is going up a little bit in 2019. That’s going up. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s just a slight rise in it, couple dollars. But for some people, well, everybody for the Medicare Part B, that comes directly out of their social security check every month, so they don’t actually pay that. It just comes out automatically and that can be … swallow up their cost of living adjustment for some people that are already retirees, especially. It can eat that up a little bit. And so, people have to consider that. If you don’t see a big increase in your check, look at your Medicare Part B premium. It probably also went up.

Cindy Speaker:  Okay, well, that part’s not great news.

Noell Black: No, it’s not. But hopefully, they get a little bit of extra money. Because if you’re on SSI, you don’t have Medicare Part B. But if you’re on social security disability or retired and getting your retirement benefits, then you do have Medicare Part B premium.

Cindy Speaker:  You had mentioned before that this also effects military veterans. Tell us about that.

Noell Black:  Yes, the military veterans benefits are also going up with the cost of living increase for 2019. That includes retired military veterans, VA rates for compensation claims, and pension claims for disabled veterans and surviving families. All that will be in effect of December first, so they will see those increases, actually, on their check that they receive December 31st of this year.

For social security retirees and social security disability benefit recipients, they’re gonna actually see that it’s the December check but it’s paid in January of 2019 is when they’ll see that increase come up on their checks.

Cindy Speaker: Very good, very good.

Noell Black: Yes.

Cindy Speaker:  Well, this is good news.

Noell Black:  This is good news and every year … We’ve had years where we didn’t get a cost of living adjustment at all, so just having-

Cindy Speaker:  Wow.

Noell Black: A lot of people say, “Well, 2.8% doesn’t sound like a whole lot,” but this is the highest rate in seven years and that’s really helpful to these people on benefits. When this is your only income, that makes a huge difference.

Cindy Speaker: Sure, sure.

Noell Black:  Yes.

Cindy Speaker:  Well, Noell, if anyone has questions, how can they reach out to your office?

Noell Black:  Yes, they can find us on the internet at www.gardberglaw.com and they can contact us that way. They can also call us at 251-343-1111, or 1-800-332-1529 and we will be happy to see if we are able to help them with their veterans of social security disability claims, and get those increased and get them some benefits coming in.

Cindy Speaker: Excellent.

Well, as always, thanks for being with us today.

Noell Black:  Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.

Cindy Speaker: My pleasure.

And for those of you that are watching, if you have questions, comments, you can put them right on this page and we’ll get back to you, answer them. And as always, you can call the office as well. Thanks, everybody. Have a great day, bye.

Noell Black:  Thank you.