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Does Receiving Disability Affect Retirement Benefits?

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
November 22, 2022  ·  2 min read

If you’ve been working through a health condition in the hopes of taking early retirement benefits, you may be able to earn more by applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) instead. Your disability check will be more than early retirement benefits, and taking SSDI won’t impact how much you get once you reach your full retirement age.


Does receiving disability affect retirement benefits?

No, it does not. You can get SSDI without affecting your Social Security retirement benefits in any way. In fact, your SSDI benefit is the exact same amount as your retirement benefit would be.


Can you get SSDI and retirement benefits?

Unfortunately, you can’t receive SSDI and retirement benefits at the same time. Once you hit your full retirement age — which is 67 if you were born after 1960, per the Social Security Administration (SSA) — your disability benefits automatically become retirement benefits. While this monthly sum gets called something different, the money doesn’t change. The amount you received while on disability is the amount you receive as a retirement benefit.


When your disability benefit becomes a retirement benefit

The age at which your Social Security disability benefits become retirement benefits is your full retirement age. The SSA determines your retirement age based on the year you were born. For anyone born in 1960 or later, full retirement age is 67 years old. Anyone born between 1943 and 1959 will have to wait until they’re 66 and 67 years old. Anyone born before 1943 has a full retirement age between 65 and 66.

Year born

Full retirement age

1960 and later

67

1959

66 and 10 months

1958

66 and 8 months

1957

66 and 6 months

1956

66 and 4 months

1955

66 and 2 months

Between 1943 and 1954

66

Related: How is my disability check calculated?


Is it better to retire early or apply for SSDI?

If you have a health condition that could qualify for SSDI, you’re better off applying for disability than retiring early. Put simply, you’ll get more money if you receive SSDI than if you retire early.

When you get SSDI, the government calculates your benefit amount as if you’d reached your full retirement age, even if you haven’t. But if you take early retirement, you’ll only qualify for a reduced monthly benefit — generally between 70% and 80% of your full benefit amount.

As an example, let’s say you were born in 1960 and retire in 2023 at age 63. You’ll qualify for a retirement benefit that’s 75% of what it would be if you waited until you were 67 years old. Even if you wait to retire until you’re 66, you’ll get a monthly check worth about 93% of your maximum amount.

Learn more about what conditions qualify for disability.


How to apply for disability benefits

Applying for disability is a more difficult process than applying for early retirement benefits, but getting the benefits you deserve is worth the work. There are also resources available to help you.

For starters, you can try our step-by-step guide to applying for disability. It breaks down the entire application process and what you should expect along the way.

If you already know the basics and want to get started on your application today, read these line-by-line instructions for the disability application form, including advice from our team of lawyers. It’s a time-consuming form and we strongly recommend doing some preparation before you submit to give yourself a better chance of winning benefits.


Where to get help applying for disability

If you aren’t sure whether you qualify for disability or if you have any questions about the process, consider talking with a disability lawyer. It may sound strange to hire a lawyer at this point, but they’re experts on benefits (and you don’t need to pay them unless you actually win benefits). A lawyer can also help you

  • Complete your paperwork (some even fill out the application for you)
  • Track deadlines and get your doctors to share necessary documents
  • Prove to the SSA that your condition qualifies for disability
  • Represent you during your court hearing (which most SSDI applicants have to go through)

To get help today, fill out our 2-minute disability quiz. One of our team members will reach out with more information and can match you with a lawyer if you want one.

Ready to get benefits today?

See what you qualify for

How long has your condition made it hard to work?

Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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