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COLA Increase for Social Security Beneficiaries in 2014

The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced a 1.5% increase in Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for approximately 63 million Americans in 2014. The 1.5% COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) will begin in January 2014 with more than 57 million Social Security beneficiaries receiving the same. More than 8 million SSI beneficiaries have started receiving increased payments from December 31, 2013. Social Security retirement benefit comes with an automatic cost-of-living adjustment in accordance with the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) during the 3rd quarter each year. COLA ensures that the purchasing power of Social Security and SSI benefits is not destroyed by inflation.

With this increase, for a person receiving SSI, the maximum federal benefit will increase from $710 per month to $721. In the case of a couple, the increase will be from $1066 to $1082 per month. Since many states contribute towards the SSI benefits for their residents, this amount may increase further.

The COLA of 1.5% for 2014 is the lowest percentage increase in a decade. However, senior citizens have the benefit that the Medicare Part B (outpatient services) premiums that are deducted from Social Security checks will continue unchanged in 2014.

There are certain other changes that come into effect in January of each year, based on the increase in average wages. On the basis of that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the SS tax or taxable minimum will increase to $117, 000 from the earlier $113, 700. Following the increase in the taxable maximum, 10 million of the estimated 165 million workers who will pay social security taxes in 2014, will pay higher taxes.

Medicare Premiums to Continue Unchanged

The CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) has said that the Part B premium will continue to be $104.90; the Part B deductible will also stay at $147. However, the Part A deductible beneficiaries will have to pay on admission to a hospital will increase to $1216 from $1184. High-income seniors who pay surcharges for Medicare Part B will continue paying the same amount without any change. The surcharges are applicable for individuals that have an income of $85,000, and for joint filers with an income of $170, 000 or more. The surcharges range from $42 extra per month up to $230.80 for the highest-income seniors.

Visit www.medicare.gov for more information about Medicare changes for 2014.

Qualifying for Social Security Benefits or Medicare

Individuals who are prevented from working and performing normally on account of a disabled condition may qualify for an SSDI (Social Security Disability Income) or SSI (Supplemental Security Income). The SSA makes an independent medical judgment regarding the nature and severity of your medical condition on the basis of a thorough medical record review. A SSD lawyer can help you apply for Social Security Disability benefits or appeal an application that has been denied. Disability attorneys engaged in developing medical evidence for disability cases are assisted by medical review companies that put together the medical records, and provide the chronology and summary of the record for the attorney.

A common concern among Medicare and SS beneficiaries is whether their spouses who do not have sufficient earnings would qualify for the benefits on their own record. Even if your spouse has not worked under Social Security, he/she may be able to receive benefits equal to one half of the benefit you would receive at full retirement age. This is true provided you don’t begin collecting the benefits before full retirement age. In case you have begun collecting benefits before your full retirement age, the amount of the benefit will be reduced on the basis of the number of months benefits begin before full retirement age is reached. Your spouse must be at least 62 years of age; and you must be getting benefits or be eligible to receive disability/retirement benefits. Your spouse will qualify for Medicare when he/she is 65 years as per your record even if his/her earnings are not enough to be eligible for SS benefits. Note though that if your spouse is eligible for a pension that is not covered by Social Security (for e.g., local government or foreign employment), the benefits may be reduced. You can read more regarding this at www.socialsecurity.gov.)

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