Most people who file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits do so long before they’re at the age where they qualify for Social Security retirement benefits. However, what if you began collecting retirement benefits at the earliest age you were allowed to do so (62) and then were diagnosed with a serious illness or suffered a disabling injury? Should you just continue to collect your retirement benefits or could you get more if you were receiving SSDI? (You can’t get both simultaneously.)
Understanding full retirement age
It depends. If you began receiving SSDI benefits, you would get the same amount as you would receive if you’d waited until full retirement age (FRA) to collect Social Security retirement benefits. That would be at least 25% more each month than you’re currently receiving if you’re still under FRA. By opting to begin collecting benefits before your FRA, you’re going to be collecting at that lower rate until you reach your FRA. Note that your FRA depends on the month and year you were born. Currently, it’s between 66 and 67.
When was the onset of your medical condition?
Qualifying for SSDI benefits can be a lengthy, difficult process. If you’re still a few years away from FRA, it may be worthwhile to apply. If you had the condition when you began receiving retirement benefits and didn’t realize it (and can prove it), you may be able to get your SSDI benefit amount backdated. Then you could receive the difference between the retirement benefits you’ve been collecting and those for FRA for that period (up to one year) -– as well as the larger amount moving forward.
For example, maybe you switched to part-time work at 62 because you were having trouble getting around. Later, you were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which might qualify you for SSDI.
If you have a new condition or injury and will reach your FRA within the next year, it may not be worth the trouble to seek SSDI. You’ll be receiving the same amount by the time your application was approved (if it is) anyway.
If you’re not certain which option is best for you, it can be helpful to talk with an attorney who’s experienced with SSDI claims. They can help you determine what option is best given your age and condition.