A reader recently reached out to ask this question: “Can I apply for SSDI after filing for normal Social Security benefits at age 62?” Before we get to the answer to this question, let’s review a few basics about the differences between Social Security benefits and SSDI benefits.
What Are Social Security Benefits and SSDI Benefits?
Social Security benefits are payments from the Social Security Administration for your retirement. You must qualify before you can receive benefits. To do this, you must pay into the Social Security system during your working years via payroll tax deductions. In addition, you need to earn 40 work credits before you’re fully eligible.
Social Security work credits accrue at the rate of no more than four per calendar year. However, not everyone accrues the same number of credits. The calculation is based on your total work wages (or self-employment income) for the year. Even if you accrue more than 40 credits in your lifetime, those extra credits won’t increase your Social Security benefit amount.
So, regular Social Security benefits are payments intended to replace up to 40% of your work paychecks. These benefits are available to anyone who earns enough credits and meets all other qualifications to retire. Social Security does not depend on a person’s ability to work, but there is an age limit before you can apply.
SSDI stands for Social Security Disability Insurance. The SSA pays SSDI benefits to people who cannot work because their health is too poor to continue. To qualify and apply for SSDI, you must first work in jobs where you pay Social Security payroll taxes each month. Finally, you must also have at least one medical condition that qualifies as a disability under the SSA’s definition.
Should I Apply for SSDI or Social Security?
You can apply for Social Security benefits anytime between the ages of 62 and 70. Depending on your birth year, your normal (or full) retirement age is between 65 and 67 years old. This means that if you apply for – and receive – Social Security benefits at 62, you get early retirement benefits. The SSA advises that taking early retirement at age 62 will result in a substantial reduction in your benefit payment amount. In fact, it may be up to 35% less money than what you get if you apply at your normal (or full) age.
Since you can apply for SSDI benefits at any age, you should do so at 62 if your health makes work too difficult. It’s vital that you apply for SSDI immediately. Why? Because it can take 3-5 months for the SSA to process your application. In addition, there’s one other major benefit when you apply for SSDI vs. Social Security. SSDI payments are the amount you normally get if you apply for Social Security at full retirement age. When you apply for SSDI, if approved, you’ll potentially get up to 35% more Social Security money each month. Another reason to apply for SSDI? Up to 17 months of SSDI backpay in one lump-sum payment!
If you successfully apply for SSDI, once you reach your eligible age for regular Social Security benefits, those payments stop. Then, they automatically convert into regular Social Security benefits that pay you the same amount as your SSDI payments.
Can I Apply for SSDI Benefits While I’m on Social Security?
Our reader’s question was this: “Can I apply for SSDI after filing for normal Social Security benefits at age 62?”
The answer, like so many others, is that it depends. Yes, you can apply for SSDI after filing for normal Social Security benefits at 62. However, once the SSA approves your early retirement benefits, you cannot qualify for SSDI. (Remember, full Social Security benefit payments only go to those who wait until full retirement age before they apply. When you apply for regular Social Security anytime from age 62 to 65, you forfeit a substantial amount of your monthly benefit.)
Why is this? It’s in the nature of the way the SSA defines SSDI benefits. In order to qualify for SSDI you must be unable to work, specifically because you’re disabled. SSDI benefits help replace some lost work income because of your disability. If you draw Social Security benefits instead, that means you don’t work. Since there is no work income for SSDI to replace, you cannot qualify for those benefits.
Applying for a change from Social Security benefits to SSDI is possible, but only for a very brief window (i.e., a couple months). If you are 62-65 years old and your health stops you from working, it’s better to apply for SSDI than early retirement. If you do so successfully, you’ll get your full SSDI benefit until your full retirement age. At that point your payment switches over to Social Security rather than SSDI, but remains the same amount. In contrast, if you apply for early retirement benefits, your Social Security payments are reduced for the rest of your life.
Hypothetically, ask yourself: Would you rather receive $2,000/month in SSDI, or $1,300/month in Social Security? That’s the difference between these payments, and they’re set for life.
Should I Talk to an Attorney About My Case?
Understanding all Social Security benefit requirements vs. SSDI can be difficult for anyone. Thankfully, our attorneys can help you understand all your options before you apply for SSDI or early Social Security retirement. Why not sign up for a free consultation to get advice from a local Social Security expert before you decide?
Ready to see if you may qualify? Complete your free online SSD benefits evaluation now!
Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.