The Social Security disability system is structured to help older workers. In particular, as claimants reach the ages of 50, and then 55, the rules are relaxed so that it’s easier for them to qualify for disability benefits.
But as claimants reach retirement age, whether to apply for disability becomes a more complicated question.
Currently, the full retirement age to receive maximum Social Security benefits is 66 (and rising to 67 in the next few years). However, you can receive reduced retirement benefits beginning at the age of 62. These benefits may be reduced by up to 30 percent from what you would receive at full retirement.
So, if you’re no longer working at 62 due to mental or physical impairments and already collecting retirement benefits, should you apply for disability?
The upside is that if your claim is approved, you essentially get a raise from Social Security. Even if you’re 62, you’ll be boosted to the full retirement benefits that you would receive at age 66.
If you’re denied, things can get trickier. You can withdraw an application for early retirement benefits within 12 months of filing to pursue full retirement benefits down the line, but you also have to repay any benefits that you received from early retirement, which most people aren’t able to do.
Ultimately, the decision to pursue early retirement benefits or file for disability at age 62 depends on each individual’s situation, but speaking with a disability attorney about the effects of receiving either type of benefit can help you make the best choice.