Social Security has different benefit programs which are only available in specific circumstances. Social Security Disability and Social Security Retirement are available benefits. To start, it is important to note that there are several eligibility requirements of each that this blog post will not cover or go into detail about. However, once eligibility for either is established it is important to understand the main differences between the two. The most obvious difference being that Social Security Disability requires you to show or prove you are disabled and unable to work. In most cases, this means a lengthy process as well as attending a hearing before an administrative law judge. The judge will make the decision as to whether you are disabled under the Social Security regulations or not. On the other hand, Social Security Retirement benefits are available to any individuals who have enough work credits, are not able to work, and are at or near retirement age.
This leads to the next major difference which is age. You may be any age to file for Social Security Disability benefits if you are unable to work due to medical conditions. If you are found disabled, even at the age of 52 for example, you will receive your full monthly benefits based on your work history. To file for Social Security Retirement benefits, you must be at least 62 years old. However, while you can start receiving retirement benefits as early as age 62, you are not entitled to full benefits until you reach their full retirement age. If you start receiving benefits early, your benefits will be reduced by a percent for each month before your full retirement age. The full retirement age is 66 if you were born from 1943 to 1954. The full retirement age increases gradually if you were born from 1955 to 1960, until it reaches 67. For anyone born 1960 or later, full retirement benefits are payable at age 67.
Finally, it is also important to note that you may collect early retirement and still apply for Social Security disability. If you are found disabled, your monthly payment would increase to the full payment. There would also likely be some off set if you are awarded any back pay for the months you were receiving early retirement. Overall, it is important to understand the differences as well as the financial implications to understand whether it makes sense to apply for Social Security Disability, Social Security Retirement, or in some circumstances both.