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How does Social Security disability impact retirement?

Some individuals may be concerned, and wonder about, the impact that Social Security disability benefits may have on their Social Security retirement or other benefits they may be eligible for. First, it is important to understand that there are different types of benefits programs available through the Social Security program. One type of benefits is Social Security disability (SSD) for applicants that qualify and another type of benefits are Social Security retirement benefits.

While eligibility for Social Security retirement benefits is primarily based on age, Social Security disability benefits are somewhat different. Eligibility for retirement benefits occurs when the recipient reaches full retirement age and may be reduced or increased depending on when the individual begins collecting benefits. To determine eligibility for Social Security disability benefits, the applicant's benefits are calculated as though they had reached full retirement age at the date they became disabled. SSD benefits are not reduced for age and are based on the recipient's career earnings.

If the recipient remains eligible for SSD benefits until they reach full retirement age, only the internal Social Security accounting will change, however, the benefit amount the recipient receives will not change. If the recipient ceases to receive SSD benefits at some point, the period of low or no earnings while the recipient was on disability will not be used to compute the retirement amount the recipient may later be eligible to receive.

In general, Social Security disability benefits may be available to recipients who have significant enough work history and have a medical condition that prevents them from working and is expected to last for 12 months or greater or result in death. The Social Security benefits' process, including disability benefits, can sometimes be complex so it can be helpful for applicants to understand the ins and outs of the process as much as possible.

Source: DL-Online.com, "Social Security benefit amount for disabled is the same after retiring," Howard Kossover, April 29, 2015

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