Can I Draw SSDI & Retirement?

by Cynthia Myers

    Social Security Disability Insurance pays you a monthly benefit if you become disabled and are unable to work. This program began in 1959 for persons 50 or older, and it was expanded to all working adults in the 1960s. Depending on the type of retirement benefits you receive and your age, you may or may not be able to continue to collect SSDI and retirement at the same time.

    If you’re drawing SSDI benefits, when you reach your full retirement age, your benefits automatically convert to Social Security retirement benefits. In most cases, you can’t draw both SSDI and Social Security retirement at the same time. However, if you begin drawing early retirement Social Security, after you reach age 62 but before you reach full retirement age, and then you’re approved for SSDI, you’ll receive an SSDI payment equal to the difference between your early retirement benefit and the amount you would have collect had you waited to file for Social Security at your full retirement age.

    If you worked long enough before your disability to qualify for a pension from a public or private employer, this retirement payment doesn’t reduce your SSDI payment. Some private pensions allow you to collect after twenty years of service, or upon reaching age 50, 55, or some other age before you’re eligible for Social Security retirement. You can also take distributions from your retirement savings, such as IRAs and 401(k)s, once you reach age 59 ½, and this won’t reduce your SSDI payments either.

    You aren’t eligible for SSDI until you’re been disabled at least five months. You must file for benefits, and then the Social Security Administration will determine if you qualify for benefits. After approval, it takes another month to begin receiving your benefit checks. If you’re worked and earned enough credits to be eligible for Social Security benefits, you can collect SSDI at any age. If you haven’t earned enough work credits to qualify for Social Security, you may still qualify for payment of Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. If you’ve already reached full retirement age when you become disabled, you’ll collect regular Social Security retirement instead of SSDI.

    SSDI was designed to partially replace lost wages due to disability, hence the discontinuation of benefits once you reach full retirement age and become eligible for regular Social Security retirement. And the payments last only as long as you’re disabled. If you recover from a disabling injury or illness and are able to work again, the payments will stop. However, benefits are based on disability, and not on income. For example, you might have income from investments or rental properties that would not reduce your SSDI benefit.

    About the Author

    Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University. Before turning to freelancing full-time, Myers worked as a newspaper reporter, travel agent and medical clinic manager.

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