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Can I get SSDI if I am getting SSA retirement benefits?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is offered to workers who have paid taxes and accumulated enough work credits to be considered insured by the SSA. To qualify for SSDI workers must be disabled with a severe mental or physical health condition which does not allow them to work.

The Social Security Administration must determine that the worker’s condition is so severe that it will be expected to last for at least 12 continuous months. The SSA does not offer any type of partial or short-term disability benefits. Claimants who have a temporary condition, which is not expected to last for at least 12 continuous months, will be denied, regardless of the severity of their SSDI claim.

As mentioned above, claimants must also have sufficient work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits. The amount of work credits will vary based on a claimant’s age, but in general, claimants who are disabled at age 31 or older, will need to earn at least 20 credits in the 10 years immediately before they became disabled. Workers can receive one credit for each $1,120 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits per year (in 2011).

Social Security Retirement Benefits

Social Security retirement benefits are offered to workers who have paid Social Security taxes and earned “credits” toward Social Security retirement benefits. According to the SSA, workers qualify for SSA retirement benefits when they retire if they have earned enough work credits. Workers who receive SSA retirement will be eligible for ongoing, monthly cash payments.

The number of work credits needed to qualify for SSA retirement benefits depends on when the worker was born. Workers who were born in 1929 or later need 40 credits (10 years of work) to qualify.

Workers who stop working before they have paid enough into the system and earned enough credits to qualify for SSA retirement benefits do not lose their benefits; they remain on their Social Security record. If the worker returns to work later, they can add more credits to the worker’s record. SSA retirement benefits are not paid until the worker has accumulated the required number of credits.

Many workers may retire as early as 62 years of age and receive a reduced retirement payments. Other workers will choose to work until their “full retirement age”, which can vary based on when the worker was born, and receive an unreduced SSA retirement payment.

How does SSDI affect SSA retirement benefits?

Claimants who become disabled and unable to work prior to their full retirement age may apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Claimants who begin receiving SSDI benefits prior to their full retirement age are not “depleting” their retirement funds. SSDI and SSA retirement are two separate programs.

Workers cannot receive both SSDI and retirement simultaneously. If a claimant is receiving SSDI when they reach full retirement age their SSDI benefits are converted to retirement benefits.

What if you are receiving SSA retirement but you have not reached your full retirement age and you want SSDI benefit instead? Claimants may apply for SSDI benefits, even if they are getting reduced retirement benefits, but if they are awarded SSDI they will not continue to get their early retirement benefit. They will only receive SSDI.