Can I Get Social Security Disability If I Am Already Receiving Social Security Retirement?
You cannot receive Social Security retirement benefits and disability benefits at the same time BUT if you are receiving EARLY Retirement benefits, then you can ALSO receive social security disability. The Social Security disability program provides benefits to those who are unable to work as a result of their conditions and who are too young to draw their own retirement. So in essence, Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) can be thought of as sort of a retirement benefit for those who are forced to retire early. If you begin collecting SSDI, the amount you are receiving monthly will be the same amount you will receive when you actually reach retirement age. All that happens when you reach retirement age is SSA will classify your monthly benefits as retirement benefits instead of disability benefits.
Early Retirement Exception
As stated above, you cannot collect full social security retirement benefits and social security disability at the same time. HOWEVER, if you are collecting only EARLY retirement (not full retirement yet), you can apply for social security disability as well. So when you reach the age of 62 (early retirement age), you can draw early retirement benefits. You can also file for social security disability as well. If approved for disability benefits, your monthly amount will be increased. The key factor is whether you were found disabled before you collected early retirement or found disabled after collecting early retirement.
Disabled before early retirement benefits start. If an individual drew early retirement benefits, which is typically less than what they would get at full retirement age, and then was approved for disability benefits, Social Security will pay the difference between the early retirement amount and the full disability amount for those months the individual was disabled. So if you began drawing early retirement in January of 2021 but social security finds you disabled back to January of 2020, SSA will back pay you the difference for those 12 months. So, if Social Security agreed that your disability started before you started to collect early retirement, Social Security would pay you the difference between your disability payment and your early retirement payment for those months that you received early retirement payments.
You would also get the benefit of the disability 'freeze', which means that your lack of income due to being disabled will not be counted when calculating your Social Security retirement payment from your earnings record.
Disabled after early retirement benefits start. On the flip side, if you collected early retirement benefits BEFORE Social Security deems you disabled, Social Security will not pay you the difference between your disability payment and the early retirement payment. You would just continue to receive early retirement benefits which is generally less than what you would get had you been approved for disability prior to you collecting early retirement. So, for example, if you began drawing early retirement in January 2021, and SSA were to find you disabled as of May 2021, since disability began AFTER you drew early retirement, SSA will not pay you the difference and you would continue to receive benefits at the same rate. Essentially, you would continue to receive early retirement payments at the early retirement rate for the rest of your life.
Should I Draw Early Retirement Then?
Yes. Disability benefits can take up to 2 years before an individual is approved. You may have to go through multiple appeals and a hearing before a Judge before getting approved. Early retirement does not work that way. The moment you turn age 62, you can file for early retirement and draw early retirement immediately. So in order to avoid having to wait for disability to be approved, its best to draw early retirement to fill the gap as you do not want to be without income. Its always best to consult with an attorney and seek their assistance as they can help prepare your case to give you the best possible chance of getting approved for disability.