Social Security Disability Law in 2024: Hot Topics and Possible Legislative Updates

Social Security Disability Attorney in Syracuse NY

As we head into 2024, it’s important for Social Security Disability claimants and recipients to be aware of some potential legislative updates that could impact the benefits, application process, and eligibility criteria associated with SSDI. Several topics are under discussion among lawmakers and medical providers, and as always, the disability attorneys at MCV Law are closely monitoring the latest developments.


New Leadership at SSA

On December 23, 2023, Martin J. O’Malley was sworn in as the Commissioner of Social Security. He will serve until January 19, 2025. This comes after more than two years of instability in leadership at the Social Security Administration, and is hopefully a sign that the agency is moving in a more stable direction.

Mr. O’Malley previously served as Mayor of Baltimore and Governor of Maryland and is a proponent of using data analytics to measure performance and improve the SSA’s services.



One update to Social Security that occurs every year is the annual Cost of Living Adjustment, or COLA. The COLA is designed to help benefits keep pace with the most current economic conditions, and it is calculated based on increases in the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W). In 2024, both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits will increase by 3.2%, on par with 2023’s 3.2% increase, and below 2022’s dramatic 8.7% increase, which was implemented to help offset heavier inflation. 2024’s 3.2% COLA goes into effect for Social Security Disability recipients this month.

Another figure that changes annually is the earnings that trigger a trial work period (TWP).  When a Social Security Disability recipient tries to return to work, a TWP may be triggered depending on how much is earned on a monthly basis. In 2024, gross earnings of $1,110.00 triggers a TWP, up from $1,050.00 in 2023. The increases are based on the national average wage index (NAWI).

Social Security’s definition of substantial gainful activity (SGA) changes every year as well. For an individual trying to obtain Social Security Disability benefits, the first step in the analysis of whether an individual is disabled is whether they are performing SGA. If an individual earns more than SGA, then they will not be eligible for disability benefits, generally speaking. In 2024, SGA is $1,550.00 for non-blind individuals, and $2,590.00 for blind individuals. In 2023, the figures were $1,470.00 and $2,460.00 respectively. These increases are also based on the national average wage index.

Finally, every year the financial eligibility to receive SSI benefits changes. The asset limitation is $2,000.00 (there are some assets that do not count towards this figure) and does not change.  However, the amount of household income allowed for an individual to be eligible for SSI increases. For instance, in 2024, for a married couple with no children, one spouse can earn up to $1,028.00 gross per month and the other spouse can receive the full SSI payment. Any earnings above that reduces the SSI payment and there are no benefits once the gross income reaches $2,915.00. In 2023, for the same individuals, benefit reduction would begin at $999.00 and end once earnings reached $2,827.00. The earnings are different depending on a variety of factors including children in the home, other household members’ eligibility for SSI, and source of income (earned versus unearned).  


SSA Wait Times

In 2023, individuals applying for SSD benefits waited on average seven months for a decision, which was an increase of 86% from the average wait time in 2019. The backlog of cases pending review reached 1.15 million initial applications as of November 2023.

After waiting over seven months for an initial decision, three out of five applicants are denied. If you are denied, your appeal is called a Request for Reconsideration. This level of review can take over four months for a decision, which often results in another denial.

SSA acknowledges that the wait times are unacceptable and causes hardship for “the most vulnerable people”. SSA has taken steps to address the problem by reallocating experienced employees, hiring new employees, and working to improve processes. One course of action under consideration at the SSA is the removal of the reconsideration stage.


We Can't Wait Act

SSD benefits have a five-month waiting period, meaning that benefit payments start in the six months after the onset of disability. This delay in benefits for the first five months has a dramatic negative impact on the disabled.

Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the We Can’t Wait Act “to amend title II of the Social Security Act to permit disabled individuals to elect to receive disability insurance benefits during the disability insurance benefit waiting period….” The bill number is S.3400, and it has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.

This bill, which already has bipartisan support, gives claimants a choice to receive benefits without delay. We will continue to monitor the progress of the bill.


Work History

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently published a proposed rule change that will make it easier for disabled adults to qualify for benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs if adopted.

Specifically, this proposed rule would revise the period the SSA considers when deciding which of your past jobs are relevant in the disability determination from 15 years to five years.

To qualify for SSD benefits, you must prove you cannot work due to a physical and/or mental impairment.

SSA uses a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether you are disabled. At step four of the process, SSA considers your work history and your residual functional capacity to determine whether you can perform any of your past work.  

SSA current rules define past work as any job you have done in the past 15 years that was performed at substantial gainful activity and lasted long enough for you to learn how to do the job.

Why does the change matter? Shortening the period for past work reduces the number of jobs in your work history that SSA considers when determining if you have acquired transferable job skills or if you can perform your past work. The rule change may reduce your chances of being denied at step 4 of the sequential evaluation process based on a finding you can perform past work.


MCV Law is Ready. 

No matter what changes 2024 brings for Social Security Disability law, our disability attorneys will stay informed and work tirelessly to ensure that your rights are fully protected. Whether you are starting your claim from scratch, gauging your eligibility, or starting an appeal, our firm is here to guide you through the Social Security Disability process with total clarity. Our priority is to help you get your life back. Connect with us today for a free consultation.

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