Know When to Use Retirement, Disability Benefits

By Creators, Tom Margenau | AZ Daily Star, December 4, 2016 | Go to article overview

Know When to Use Retirement, Disability Benefits


Creators, Tom Margenau, AZ Daily Star


Question: I was going to file for my Social Security retirement in a few years. But I'm wondering if I should file for disability instead. I have all sorts of medical problems too numerous to mention in this email. What should I do?

A: You didn't give your age and you didn't tell me if you are still working. Knowing that information is key to answering your question. If you are still working, then you're not eligible for Social Security disability. To qualify for such benefits, the law says you must be unable to work. So if you are working, that means you are not disabled according to Social Security law. But I will assume you are not working and then deal with the issue of your age.

If you are 66 or older, you can forget about Social Security disability. Once you reach that age, disability benefits are no longer payable. To put that another way, a retirement benefit pays the same rate as a disability benefit for people over age 66.

If you are still under age 62, then you're too young for Social Security retirement. But you definitely should file for Social Security disability. If you are over 62, you should file for retirement and disability benefits at the same time. They can start your retirement payments right away. Then if your disability claim is eventually approved, they will switch you to the higher disability rate.

I just turned 64 years old. I filed for Social Security retirement on my 62nd birthday. I've had some major health problems lately. Is it too late to file for disability benefits?

A: It's not too late. But don't expect a big boost in your monthly Social Security checks if your disability claim is approved.

Because you took reduced retirement at age 62, you are currently getting 75 percent of your full rate. A disability benefit normally pays an amount equal to your age 66 full retirement rate. But from that amount, they must deduct roughly one-half of one percent for every month you've already received a Social Security retirement check.

It sounds like you've already received about 24 monthly Social Security checks -- meaning your disability benefit must be reduced by 12 percent. So if your disability claim is approved, instead of getting the full retirement rate of 100 percent, you would get about 88 percent. Still, that is better than the 75 percent reduced retirement rate that you are currently getting.

Other retirement beneficiaries a little older than the one who sent this email but still under age 66 should note that they would eventually reach a point where they simply gain little or nothing by filing for Social Security disability.

Here's an example. Sam filed for retirement benefits at age 62, so he is getting the 75 percent rate. At age 65 and 6 months, he had a heart attack. If he files for disability benefits and if his claim is approved, his regular disability rate, again equal to his full age 66 benefit, must be reduced by about one-half of one percent for each month he's received a retirement benefit. …

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