New Year Brings COLA Increase

New Year Brings COLA Increase

Photo of Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay

In 2015, nearly 64 million Americans who receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will receive a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, increase to their monthly benefit payment of 1.7 percent.
The average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker in 2015 is $1,328 (up from $1,306 in 2014). The average monthly Social Security benefit for a disabled worker in 2015 is $1,165 (up from $1,146 in 2014).

For people who receive SSI, the maximum federal payment amount increased to $733 (up from $721 in 2014).

Other Social Security changes in 2015 are also worth noting. For example, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security payroll tax will increase to $118,500 (up from $117,000 in 2014). A worker will earn one credit toward Social Security coverage after paying taxes on $1,220 in earnings in 2015 (up from $1,200 in 2014). As a reminder, eligibility for retirement benefits still requires 40 credits (usually about10 years of work).

Information about Medicare changes for 2015 is available at www.medicare.gov.

The Social Security Act outlines how the COLA is calculated. To read more about the COLA, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

To learn more about other changes in 2015, read our fact sheet at www.socialsecurity.gov/news/press/factsheets/colafacts2015.html.

Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay is Social Security’s public affairs specialist in Hawai‘i.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

RETIREMENT
Question:  What is the earliest age that I can apply for my Social Security retirement benefits?
Answer:  The earliest age to receive retirement benefits is 62, but you can apply up to three months beforehand.  If you retire at age 62 today, your benefit would be about 25 percent lower than what it would be if you waited until you reach full retirement age.
Even if you are not ready to retire, you should still sign up for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday. You can do both online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline.

Question:  Can I delay my retirement benefits and receive benefits as a spouse only? How does that work?
Answer:  It depends on your age. If you are between full retirement age and age 70 and your spouse is receiving Social Security benefits, you can apply for retirement benefits and request that the payments be suspended. Then, you can choose to receive benefits on your spouse’s Social Security record. You then will earn delayed retirement credits up to age 70, as long as you do not collect benefits on your own work record. Later, when you do begin receiving benefits on your own record, those payments could very well be higher than they would have been otherwise because you earned delayed retirement credits.

DISABILITY
Question:  Do disabled children qualify for disability benefits?
Answer:  There are two Social Security disability programs that provide benefits for disabled children. Under the Supplemental Security Income program, a child from birth to age 18 may receive monthly payments based on disability or blindness if:

  • The child has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets the definition of disability for children; and
  • The income and resources of the parents and the child are within the allowed limits.
  • Under Social Security, an adult child (a person age 18 or older) may receive monthly benefits based on disability or blindness if:
  • The adult child has an impairment or combination of impairments that meet the definition of disability for adults;
  • The disability began before age 22; and
  • A parent of the adult child worked long enough to be insured under Social Security and is receiving retirement or disability benefits, or is deceased.

Under both of these programs, the child must not be doing any substantial work. The child also must have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability.

Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay is Social Security’s public affairs specialist in Hawai‘i.

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