Social Security benefits are an important safety net for millions of Americans who are either retired, considering retirement, or suffering from an illness or injury that makes them unable to work. Most people need one or the other when it comes to these benefits, but sometimes, people may be in situations where they are eligible for both.
Unfortunately, you cannot receive both Social Security Disability and Social Security retirement benefits at the same time. That’s because they are both paid out of the same “fund” that you paid into while working. People who become disabled and can’t work essentially become “retired” and are thus able to draw their retirement benefits (in the form of disability benefits) earlier than they would if they worked until the actual retirement age.
Although you can’t receive both types of benefits at the same time, you can switch from one type to another, especially if you took early retirement at age 62 or any time before reaching age 66-67, which are variably considered full retirement age, depending on your birthdate. And in some cases, that’s the best way to maximizing your Social Security benefits, provided you’re eligible for both disability and retirement.
Because taking early retirement means you get less money overall, switching to disability benefits if you’ve become disabled before full retirement age can boost your monthly income and can even make it as though you never took early retirement at all, depending on when your disability began. However, that requires the Social Security Administration (SSA) to conclude that you became disabled BEFORE you began collecting early retirement.
If your disability occurred after you received even your first retirement benefit payment, switching benefits wouldn’t be advantageous, as the amount paid to you would be the same.
Because many illnesses and injuries become worse with age, it’s common for people approaching retirement age to begin experiencing difficulty working. And because disability claims take much longer to process and complete than retirement claims, many people with potentially disabling conditions will take early retirement at age 62 while also applying for disability benefits.
That means they’re ensured to get at least get their minimum retirement benefits right away while waiting for their disability claims to proceed. If they’re ultimately approved for disability benefits, they can switch to those and receive more money, including retroactive payments dating back 12 months to make up the difference between their early retirement income and their full disability income.
Although it’s possible to retire at age 62, then get approved for disability benefits and increase your monthly income, doing so isn’t always recommended. That’s because the SSA has strict requirements for approving disability claims, and it’s common for first-time applicants to be denied. Appeals are also often difficult to win, as there must be significant evidence showing that an illness or injury not only disabled you, but occurred before you filed for and began receiving retirement benefits.
However, if the facts are in your favor, then it’s worth pursuing this option, especially with an experienced Indiana Social Security Disability lawyer on your side. At Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin, our legal team will collect all the evidence associated with your retirement benefits and your disability claim to determine your eligibility and whether it makes sense to switch benefits. Contact us today for a free consultation—we’ll help you make the right decision for your family.
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