Midwest Disability, P.A. Midwest Disability, P.A. Midwest Disability, P.A.

Social Security Disability: Full Retirement Age

When the Social Security program was developed in 1934 (signed into law in 1935), President Roosevelt called upon assistance from actuarial studies, which initially indicated that the correct full retirement age (also called "normal retirement age") for a solvent, self-supporting program should be sixty-seven. Though the German model system (which predates our own by 46 years) had selected seventy as the minimum qualifying age, the actuaries on the Social Security program eventually chose sixty-five as the full retirement age "because sixty was too young and seventy was too old. So we split the difference"[1]

Since 1934, however, improvements in the health of older people and increases in average life expectancy have served as reasons for increasing the full retirement age. The 1983 Social Security Amendments include a provision for raising the full retirement age for people born in 1938 or later[2].

Although Social Security Administration aims to resolve claims in a speedy fashion, disability claimants may be waiting months or even years before they receive their benefits. The decision to file for early retirement to tide them over may be reasonable, but is generally not advised as benefits for early retirement are reduced[3].

If you are found disabled under Title II of the Social Security Act, your disability benefits should automatically convert to retirement benefits when you reach full retirement age, but the amount remains the same. However, as the largest social insurance program in the western hemisphere, errors in payment processing have occurred where recipients have had their benefits cancelled or receive overpayment. An attorney or advocate may prove useful in such situations.


[1] Robert J. Myers, Within the System: My Half Century in Social Security, (1992)

[2] C.F.R §404.409

[3] C.F.R §404.410

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