Decline in health will not affect Social Security disability payments

Farm Forum

Q My wife has received Social Security disability for several years because of a progressive illness. Her health recently took a turn for the worse, and we were wondering if she might receive a larger amount because of this.

A Best wishes to your wife, but declining health will not change her SSA disability amount because it is based largely on her earnings while still working. SSA disability requirements include both having enough work and meeting a strict medical definition of disability based on inability to work. While details are on the SSA website at, basics are that a person cannot do the work previously done, cannot perform other work due to their medical condition and must have a disability that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least a full year. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial or short-term impairments. Since your wife already met this work related definition of disability, and because her benefit amount is based on her past work history, becoming more disabled will not change her amount. She did receive an increased amount with the 2014 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

Social Security administers the different, need based, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Worsening health will not change the SSI amount either but non-medical changes might. For example, changes in income, marital status or where a person lives can result in a changed SSI amount.

Did you know? From obtaining estimates to having your questions answered or completing an application for benefits, a lot of Social Security business can be completed online, at your convenience, 24 hours a day. Services can also be completed by telephone with the national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 / TTY 1-800-325-0778.

If you prefer visiting in person, know that most local Social Security offices are open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday and 9 a.m. to Noon on Wednesday. A few small offices have different hours. Severe weather or an unanticipated event can force a temporary office closure. Before traveling, go online to check the Office Closings page in the Items of Interest section of The page is updated hourly so check for the latest information before leaving home. Travel safe.

Based in Grand Forks, Howard I. Kossover is the Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for North Dakota and western Minnesota. Send general interest questions to him at Read his online articles at