Q: At nearly age 64, I just stopped work because of a severe accident. Is it better to apply for Social Security disability or retirement?
A: You can apply for either one or both at the same time. You chose what to do.
Social Security disability depends on more than your immediate medical condition. Based largely on ability to work, the disability definition includes that a person cannot do the work they did before and that they cannot adjust to other work because of their medical condition. In addition, the medical condition must have lasted or be expected to last for at least one year or to result in death. Consider filing for disability if your injuries are expected to be within this definition.
Disability amounts are not reduced for age because a person is considered to have reached full retirement age when disability begins. There is a waiting period of five full months from onset of disability before benefits are payable so benefits start effective for the sixth full month of disability.
Details about the Social Security application process are in the disability planner section.
You can file for reduced Social Security retirement benefits since you are already at least the minimum SSA retirement age of 62. A retirement amount is permanently reduced by the number of months that you are before full retirement age, which is age 66 for people born from 1943 – 1954. Go to the retirement planner section for more details.
Disability benefits are more difficult to receive than retirement and that application can take months to process. With this in mind, another option for you is to file for both Social Security disability and retirement at the same time. If you file for both, the retirement, reduced for age, is paid first and while the disability application is pending. This will provide you with immediate income.
If your disability application is not approved, the reduced retirement continues at the established reduced amount. If the disability application is approved, your ongoing retirement amount is reviewed, changed to disability and increased, although not to 100 percent. The final disability amount will be reduced by the number of months that you received reduced retirement before the disability effective date. For example, retirement received for months of the disability waiting period reduces the disability amount.
Applying for the need-based Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security could be another option depending on your financial situation.