Can I draw early retirement benefits from Social Security and receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits at the same time?
Lately, a number of my clients have asked me whether they can receive early retirement benefits from Social Security and, at the same time, also receive Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) benefits. Believe it or not, the answer is “yes” in many cases. Suppose that Susan B. Anthony, who is currently 62 years old and lives in Troy, Ohio, worked for 30 years at the Spacely Sprockets factory in Wilmington. She has leukemia, and as a result of her condition, she had to stop working on June 1, 2010. At that time, she did not apply for SSDI benefits. Now that she has reached age 62, she would like to begin drawing early retirement benefits from Social Security. She also wants to apply for SSDI benefits.
Normally, were Susan to elect to draw early retirement benefits, the amount she would receive would be reduced by 25% compared to drawing benefits at full retirement age. For example, if Susan would have received a monthly retirement benefit of $1,000.00 had she retired at age 66 (the full retirement age for someone born in 1949), then her monthly early retirement benefit would be $750.00. If she were married, then her spouse’s benefit would be reduced by 30%. Furthermore, Susan’s monthly benefit would not increase once she reached full retirement age—the 25% reduction would be permanent.
In Susan’s case, however, she stopped working as the result of her disability. Because her disability forced her to stop working before she reached full retirement age (again, Susan is currently 62; her full retirement age would have been 66), Susan could effectively receive her full retirement benefit if her application for SSDI benefits is approved.
Assume that Susan began drawing her early retirement benefits shortly after her 62nd birthday, which was July 1, 2011. She then applied for SSDI benefits. On her application, she listed June 1, 2010, as the date on which her disability began. A decision on an application for SSDI benefits usually takes several months, and can sometimes take longer. Suppose, therefore, that the Social Security Administration approves Susan’s application for SSDI benefits on December 1, 2011, and that it determines that Susan’s disability began on June 1, 2010.
In this scenario, Susan would be paid her SSDI benefits retroactively from January, 2011, through July, 2011—when she started receiving her early retirement benefits. Then, for August, 2011, through December, 2011, Susan would be paid the difference between her early retirement benefit, which she already received, and her full retirement benefit. From December, 2011, onward, Susan would receive SSDI payments in the amount of her full, monthly retirement benefit. Effectively, because Susan’s early retirement was the product of her disability, the Social Security Administration treats her as if she had stopped working at her full retirement age.
Keep in mind that the foregoing example only applies when the Social Security Administration approves an application for SSDI benefits. For instance, had her application for SSDI benefits had been denied, Susan would have received only her reduced, early retirement benefit.
In addition, the amount of Susan’s monthly benefit would also have been different had the Social Security Administration determined that her disability began on a later date. Had the Social Security Administration determined that Susan’s disability began on September 1, 2011, then Susan would be treated as if she retired two months early (i.e. full retirement age less, less two months). In other words, if the date on which Susan’s disability officially began (as determined by the Social Security Administration) came before the date on which she stopped working, then she would be treated as if she had stopped working at her full retirement age. On the other hand, if the date on which her disability officially began came after the date on which she stopped working, then she would be treated as if she had retired early.
Drawing Social Security early retirement benefits and receiving SSDI benefits at the same time is possible. For some, this is the best option. For others, waiting until full retirement age to begin drawing benefits is the best option. If you have questions about early retirement and SSDI benefits please contact the Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation.