Retired and Disabled? Applying for Disability While on Early Retirement

Can I apply for Social Security Disability Benefits while receiving early retirement?

The quick answer to this is yes.  But first let’s review what early retirement is. Once you turn 62, you may opt out for early retirement from Social Security instead of waiting for your full retirement at age 66 or 67.  The trade off is that you are agreeing to a reduced amount of retirement money from Social Security since you are receiving your retirement check a few years before your full retirement age.  Typically, an early retirement check is 70-80% of what the full retirement check would have been if you had waited to age 66 or 67.

Monthly Social Security Disability benefits are almost the exact same amount as your monthly full retirement check.  So if you are receiving an early retirement check and you suffer from a severe mental or physical impairment you would want to go on disability so that you can get the larger check per month.  Social Security does allow you to apply for disability while you are receiving early retirement; however, to receive the higher monthly amount you need to prove that your disability occurred prior to the date you started receiving early retirement.

To clarify this, let’s look at a hypothetical scenario of John Doe.  John is 62 years old and has the option of waiting for his Social Security retirement at age 67 when he will receive $1000/month, or John can start receiving Social Security retirement now at the age of 62 at a reduction of $700/month.  John suffers from a physical illness, and he is not able to work so he needs the income.  John decides to take early retirement and starts receiving $700/month.  John also applies for Social Security disability for his physical illness.  If John is able to win his disability case and he is able to prove that this disability occurred prior to the date he went on early retirement, he will start receiving $1000/month instead of the $700.  Better yet, Social Security will go back and pay him the difference for all those months that he was eligible for disability.  The other great benefit to John is that he will now be eligible for Medicare since he is over the age of 50 and is disabled.

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