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When Does Social Security Disability Convert to Retirement?

— November 16, 2021

If you become disabled before reaching retirement age, your work history entitles you to apply for and receive benefits through the Social Security Disability Insurance program. 

You may have heard or read that the benefits you receive from Social Security disability convert when you reach the age of retirement. If you are concerned about the effect it will have on your ability to pay bills, the disability lawyers at the Law Firm want you to stop worrying. Here is a look at exactly what happens to your SSD payments when you retire and the reason why you have no reason to be concerned about it.

What happened when you worked and paid Social Security taxes?

When you worked at a job or through self-employment and paid Social Security taxes on your income, you paid into the Social Security system. By doing that for a long enough duration, you become entitled to receive Social Security retirement benefits. If you become disabled before reaching retirement age, your work history entitles you to apply for and receive benefits through the Social Security Disability Insurance program. 

Why does Social Security disability convert?

If you qualify for SSDI by working long enough and meet the definition for being disabled as defined in the Social Security regulations, you are approved to receive a monthly payment equivalent to what you would get at retirement age. Therefore, once you reach full retirement age, the SSDI payments automatically convert to Social Security retirement benefits.

Seeing disability convert to regular Social Security should generally not change the amount of the payment. You may see it go up if you received workers’ compensation benefits while also receiving SSDI. The reason is that Social Security may offset a portion of the compensation payment to reduce what you get from SSDI, but the offset ends once the disability converts to retirement benefits.

When does the conversion happen?

The age when you become eligible to receive full retirement benefits depends on when you were born. Although 65 years of age is usually associated with retirement, only people born in 1937 or earlier could retire and receive Social Security retirement benefits at 65. Anyone born in 1960 or later reaches full retirement age at 67.

Older man and woman in kitchen with tomatoes on cutting board, drinking wine; image via
Image via

Do not confuse the Social Security retirement age with early retirement. If you worked long enough, you may be eligible to apply for early retirement at 62 years of age. However, the retirement benefits that you receive by taking early retirement are less than you could get by waiting until you are 67 years old, and the reduced benefit continues even after you are 67. 

Talk to a Social Security disability lawyer

Because it can take a while for Social Security to approve an initial application for SSDI benefits, people sometimes file for early retirement benefits while waiting for a decision on their SSDI application. This may be a mistake that could end up leaving you with reduced benefits.

You may be able to qualify for an exception to the general rule about reduced monthly payments for early retirement, but your application for SSDI must be filed after you applied for early retirement and Social Security must determine that your disability onset date was before you retired. If you satisfy those requirements, you will receive full benefits without the early retirement reduction.

Before taking early retirement, speak with a Social Security disability lawyer at the Law Firm for advice and guidance. We can review your records and advise you about the best course of action to take.

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