In most cases, you cannot collect Social Security retirement and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) at the same time. You may, however, qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if you meet the strict financial criteria while drawing either Social Security retirement or SSDI benefits.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) created the SSDI program to bridge the gap between when someone must leave the workforce due to a disability and when they can draw retirement benefits. For this reason, there is only one way to collect both retirement and SSDI at the same time.
How do SSDI and Social Security retirement work together?
SSDI pays out your full retirement benefits until you qualify to draw them under the traditional Social Security retirement scheme. Once you reach full retirement age based on the year you were born, the SSA will automatically start your retirement benefits and cease your SSDI payments.
The SSA allows you to file for retirement benefits as early as age 62, or wait and receive your full benefit amount when you reach full retirement age. Depending on what year you were born, this may vary from 65 to 67 years old. For most people, it does not make sense to file for early retirement benefits at age 62 if you are already receiving SSDI because of a disability. Your disability payments equal your full retirement amount, and those who opt for early retirement receive reduced benefits.
Imagine that, at age 60, you suffer a back injury leading to a disability. You are approved for SSDI benefits and you begin drawing an amount equal to your full retirement amount. When you reach age 62, nothing changes; you continue to draw your full SSDI amount. Once you reach your full retirement age, the SSA swaps you from SSDI to traditional retirement benefits. However, this occurs automatically so you will not see a break in your benefits and do not need to do anything to ensure this happens.
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Do I qualify for the exception to this rule? Can I draw both SSDI and retirement?
There is one exception that allows qualified individuals to draw both retirement and SSDI benefits at the same time, but this is rare and still does not allow them to collect more than their full retirement benefit.
This occurs when someone opts for early retirement between age 62 and their full retirement age, but is then approved for SSDI benefits. Some people set themselves up for this by filing for early retirement after an injury or illness caused them to have to quit work. They can begin receiving early retirement to help them cover bills until their SSDI claim receives approval and the waiting period for those benefits expires.
Once this happens, they can begin receiving additional money from the SSA each month on top of their early retirement benefits. This will bring them to their full retirement benefit amount. They are also most likely qualified for retroactive benefits, which will bring them to their full retirement amount for any month they suffered a disability but were not yet approved for SSDI.
This can backfire on some people, however. If you apply for early retirement but do not receive approval for your SSDI claim, you may be stuck drawing a smaller amount of retirement for the rest of your life. If this happened to you, we may be able to help you in appealing the SSDI denial. You only have 60 days to file this appeal, however, so contact us as soon as possible after you receive a denial.
Can I qualify for SSI while collecting Social Security retirement benefits?
While you cannot collect Social Security retirement and SSDI at the same time to increase your benefits beyond the full retirement amount, there is a program that may allow you to collect additional income.
SSI is a Social Security program that helps seniors and those with a disability who have an extremely low income. To qualify for SSI, you need to meet strict income qualifications and have only a minimum amount of resources. Under this program, your retirement or SSDI checks count as unearned income. According to the SSA, the average retirement benefit in 2017 is $1,360 per month. However, many people receive well below this average.
To qualify for SSI, there is a 2017 limit of $755 per month on unearned income. The limit for couples is $1,123 per month. You also need to meet other financial qualifications to receive these benefits.
How can a Social Security benefits lawyer help me?
A Social Security benefits lawyer can help you analyze your situation and determine what type of benefits you may qualify for, and check your application before you apply. This may increase your chances of receiving approval for SSDI or SSI with your initial application and avoid the appeals process.
We can answer your questions about Social Security benefits and assess your options for getting the income you need through these programs. For example, imagine you are 62 years old. You cannot work and are considering applying for early retirement benefits. By discussing your options with a disability lawyer, you can better understand why you might want to apply for SSDI before you apply for early retirement.
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How can I reach a Social Security Disability attorney in the Pittsburgh area?
At Berger and Green, we understand how complicated navigating the process to get the money you need can seem. This is especially true when you are already stressed out because you are unable to work and are unsure how you can continue to pay your bills or care for your family. We can help you determine which benefits you may qualify for and ensure you get the benefits you deserve. Call us today at 412-661-1400 to learn more.