Bonjour! Here I am in the City of Light, Paris, France. There is so much to see and do here, with the museums, monuments, and cathedrals, but I like to soak up the café scene, sipping my café au lait and enjoying a very tasty chocolat crepe. Checking my email, I see I have a question about automatic earnings.
About seven years ago I became disabled and had to stop working. I had worked pretty steadily over the years so I qualified for Social Security disability insurance benefits. I do not get SSI. A couple years ago I tried working again and have been able to keep at it. I can’t work as much as I used to due to my condition so I never make more than $1,000 a month. (I’ve told SSA all about this.) The extra money helps out. Someone told me that this work I’ve been doing since I started getting benefits would also increase my benefit amount. Is that true?
Returning to work and having earnings after Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) start may possibly increase a beneficiary’s monthly payment amount, depending on the person’s work earnings history before benefits started.
The initial amount of a beneficiary’s DIB payment is based on an average of his/her own lifetime earnings up to the point benefits start. If you (or any DIB beneficiary) had low or no earnings in years prior to receiving benefits, then those years can be replaced by earnings in recent years if they are higher. Using these higher earnings years in the calculation increases your lifetime average earnings and consequently your ongoing benefit amount. Normally, the increase is just a few dollars since computation is based on the average of several years’ earnings. So, depending on your lifetime work history, your recent earnings may increase your benefit amount.
You need to do nothing to initiate this possible increase. Every year the Social Security Administration (SSA) computer system automatically screens the earnings records of all beneficiaries looking for work earnings in the previous year in order to recalculate a beneficiary’s benefit amount. This process is called the Automatic Earnings Reappraisal Operation (AERO). This automatic re-computation never decreases a person’s benefits but can increase them if the past year’s earnings were higher, than the earnings from a year used in the person’s original benefit computation or last AERO. (POMS RS 00605.560)
An increased DIB benefit based on an AERO is effective in the January following the year in which the earnings were paid. For example, a benefit increase resulting from an automatic re-computation to include 2013 earnings will be paid effective January 2014 onward. The AERO process can take several months, so that in this example, the beneficiary would start receiving the increased benefit and the payment of the amount due since January, in the form of a lump sum later in 2014.
The locals tell me that the Tuilleries Gardens are beautiful this time of year… it is after all… April in Paris! Until next time, au revoir!