SSA Announced 2019 Cost of Living Increase

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 67 million Americans will increase 2.8 percent in 2019.

The 2.8 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 62 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2019.

Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2018. (Note: some people receive both Social Security and SSI benefits.)

To view a copy of the SSA COLA Fact Sheet, visit the SSA web site at Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustment for 2019.

Medicare Information

Information about Medicare changes for 2019 are available at https://www.medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/medicare-costs-at-a-glance . The standard Part B premium amount will be $135.50 (or higher depending on family income).

Final 2019 benefit amounts will be communicated to beneficiaries in December 2018 through EIV, the mailed COLA notice and my Social Security’s Message Center.

If you have already completed January 2019 ARs or February 2019 ARs, there is no requirement to correct those certifications unless your residents request a change to allow for the Medicare expense. 

HUD provides the following guidance in HH 4350.3 R1, C4, Paragraph 9-6:

When processing certifications with an effective date of January 1, February 1, March 1 and April 1, in order to complete the Recertification Steps outlined in Chapter 7, Figure 7-3, and provide the tenant with the required 30-day notice of any increase in rent, the owner must use one of the methods below for determining the tenant’s income.

Use the benefit information reported in EIV that does not include the COLA as third-party verification as long as the tenant confirms that the income data in EIV is what he/she is receiving;

  1. Use the SSA benefit, award letter or Proof of Income Letter provided by the tenant that includes the COLA adjustment if the date of the letter is within 120 days from the date of receipt by the owner; 
  2. Determine the tenant’s income by applying the COLA increase percentage to the current verified benefit amount and document the tenant file with how the tenant’s income was determined; or    
  3. Request third party verification directly from SSA when the income in EIV does not agree with the income the tenant reports he/she is receiving.  (See Paragraph 9-15)      
  4. All recertifications effective after April 1 must reflect the SSA benefit that includes the COLA.

VA Disability

The 2019 VA Disability rates will increase 2.8% based on the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) increase that was announced by the Social Security Administration. 2019 disability rates will be effective 12/1/2018.

For those of you who have implemented the Streamlined Determination of Income (Verification of Fixed Income) as outlined in the Streamlining Final Rule and discussed in HSG Notice 16-09 Streamlining Administrative Regulations for Multifamily Housing Programs, 2019 may be the first year you implement this new verification method instead of requesting new Award Letters. Talk to your compliance department about changes to verification of fixed income.