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2014 COLA Increases impact Social Security, SSI, Aging Waiver and LIFE Programs

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The Social Security Administration has announced that payments to retired and disabled beneficiaries will increase by 1.5% in 2014. This inflation adjustment is intended to offset the higher costs-of-living encountered by beneficiaries.

The increase will take effect starting Dec. 31 for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients and in January 2014 for people receiving Social Security retirement payments.

Social Security Benefits Increase

A retired worker who receives a statistically average monthly Social Security retirement benefit (currently $1,272) will see his payment increased by $19. The maximum benefit (currently $2,533) for a worker who retired in 2013 at the full retirement age of 66 will increase by about $38 a month. (Individual benefits vary with factors such as the worker’s lifetime earnings record and age at time of claiming).

SSI Benefits

With this cost of living adjustment (or COLA) the maximum federal SSI benefit for an individual will rise from $710 per month to $721. The maximum benefit for a couple on SSI will increase from $1,066 per month to $1,082.

Pennsylvania and many other states add to SSI benefits for their residents so that actual payments can exceed the federal maximums. The monthly payment amount is reduced by subtracting the recipient’s monthly countable income.

People who receive SSI usually qualify automatically for Medicaid benefits.

Aging Waiver and LIFE Programs

The federal maximum SSI benefit amounts (see above) are sometimes referred to as the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR).

The FBR is used as a base to determine income eligibility for a number of Medicaid funded public benefit programs including Pennsylvania’s Aging Waiver Program and Life Programs. These programs are important supports for seniors who want to receive needed long term care services at home rather than an institution.

The income limit for the Aging Waiver and LIFE programs is equal to 300% of the SSI Federal Benefit rate for an individual. This means that effective January 1, 2014 the new income ceiling will be $2163 per month.

Under Pennsylvania rules, individuals with income above this ceiling may not qualify for the Aging Waiver or LIFE programs. Care recipients and their families should consult with the experienced elder law attorneys at Marshall, Parker and Weber for further information and assistance with qualification for these home care programs.

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