Disability Vs. Social Security Benefits at Retirement

Disability and Social Security retirement benefits are paid monthly.

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The Social Security Administration offers both disability and retirement benefits to individuals who qualify. When eligible individuals receiving disability benefits reach retirement age, the Social Security Administration refers to payments as retirement benefits, but no other changes take place. Specific requirements exist for disability and Social Security retirement benefits, so if you're seeking benefits, it is important to understand both programs.

Differences Between the Two

The SSA pays disability benefits through the Social Security Disability program and the Supplemental Security Income program. Benefits assist individuals who cannot earn income due to a disability that is expected to last at least one year or due to terminal illness. The SSA determines if your medical condition meets eligibility requirements.

Nearly every American worker can qualify for Social Security benefits at retirement age. Social Security taxes are deducted from your paycheck and count as credits toward your retirement benefits. You receive a monthly check from the SSA that is based on your retirement age, earned income and the amount of credits you earned while working.

Disability Eligibility and Benefits

To qualify for disability benefits, you must meet two separate earnings tests. The first is considered a recent work test and is based on your age at the time of disability. The second is a duration test, which measures how long you worked under Social Security. In addition, eligibility is based on the nature of your medical condition and when it began, how your medical condition limits your ability to work and what kind of treatment you receive.

Retirement Eligibility and Benefits

You must possess enough credits to receive retirement benefits. The earliest you can receive benefits is age 62, but they are at a reduced amount. Full retirement age ranges from 65 to 67, and depends on your birth year. You can choose to delay your benefits past the full retirement age, which allows you to eventually receive a higher monthly income due to annual automatic percentage increases. Delaying your retirement benefits also allows you to work additional years and earn more credits.

Family Disability Benefits

In certain situations, your family can qualify for disability benefits based on your work. To meet eligibility requirements, your spouse must be age 62 or older, or under age 62 and caring for a disabled child or a child under age 16.

According to the SSA, if a spouse has not worked or earned enough, he can qualify to receive up to 50 percent of the retired workers’ full benefits. The SSA limits the amount of money your family can receive to 150 to 180 percent of your total benefit amount.