Does Collecting Social Security Disability Hurt Social Security Retirement Benefits?
Injured workers who are already – or who are approaching – the retirement age of 65 often approach our social security lawyers with this question: “Will collecting Social Security Disability affect applying for Social Security benefits?”
Social Security Disability Recap
To begin with, it is firstly important to understand how Social Security Disability Benefits work. Remember, to Qualify for SS Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, an employee’s disability must be considered “total” and must be expected to last for at least one year.
This needs to be substantiated by medical evidence or “proof” from qualified doctors. So, obtaining documentation of the disability’s total limitation on work, as well as its duration is the right first step.
Social Security Full Retirement Age
Next, one needs to understand what Social Security “Full Retirement Age” (FRA) is.
A person who has paid into Social Security over the years can start receiving Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62. However, if they delay taking their retirement benefits until they reach their “full retirement age” they get the full amount of their benefits. But If they start receiving benefits early, the benefit amount is reduced certain percent for each month before their full retirement age.
The full retirement age or “FRA” depends upon the year in which the person was born. It ranges from age 66 (those born between 1943-1954) to age 67 (those born in 1960 or later).
Social Security Disability & Social Security Retirement
So, since retirement benefits are based upon the workers full retirement age (FRA) benefit amount, being awarded Social Security Disability will have no effect on the Social Security Retirement FRA benefit amount.
And, in fact, if a worker is awarded SSDI benefits, they will automatically convert to their regular Social Security retirement benefit (at the same amount) when they reach their full retirement age. In other words, disability benefits are replaced by retirement benefits once the “FRA” is attained.
So, it is typically wise to exhaust Social Security disability benefits before applying for Social Security retirement benefits, if a worker is:
(1.) under their Full Retirement Age FRA; and
(2.) can prove they are totally disabled; and
(3.) the disability will last a year or longer.
However, claimants should be aware that it takes several months to receive an initial Social Security Disability determination. And that about 2/3rds of all SSDI applications that are submitted without the assistance of an attorney are initially denied. And, while there is an appeal process in the event of an initial denial, this also adds several months to the process.
Another Approach to Social Security Disability & Retirement Benefits
It is also possible to claim early Social Security retirement benefits (which are automatic and don’t have an approval process) at the same time one applies for Social Security disability – especially if the claimant needs to get the income without delay while their SSDI application is being considered.
Then, If the SSDI is later approved, the smaller SS retirement benefit (reduced for claiming before his FRA) will be replaced by his higher SS disability benefit. And then the higher SSDI amount will also automatically become the Social Security retirement amount when the worker reaches their Full Retirement Age.
But, the risk in this is that if the SSDI is not approved and awarded, the claimant’s reduced Social Security retirement benefit will be the permanent benefit amount for the rest of their life (except for annual Cost of Living Adjustments).
Social Security Disability Attorneys
Because this can be a complex matter, and because benefits for the rest of your lifetime are at stake, it is extremely wise to discuss your unique situation with an experienced Social Security Attorney.
For more than five decades, our Long Beach Social Security attorneys have been helping men and women make the best decisions and collect the maximum benefits for which they qualify. If you are considering applying for Social Security Disability, please call our office for a no obligation consultation with an experienced attorney.
Social Security Disability Attorney Consultation: 800-964-8047