I participate in a listener call-in radio show and a recent caller asked about Social Security disability. At age 53, he was found eligible for Social Security disability benefits and wanted to know what effect this would have on his future “real” Social Security, meaning retirement. His question provides today’s topic.
First, Social Security disability benefits are real Social Security, just another part of the program. The three parts of Social Security are retirement, survivors and disability.
Full retirement age (FRA) is a frequent topic when discussing Social Security retirement. Based on year of birth, it is the specific age that a person becomes eligible for a retirement amount that is neither reduced nor increased from the full retirement age amount. Benefits started prior to FRA are reduced by the number of months involved while benefits started afterward are increased in a similar way.
When determined eligible for Social Security disability, a person is essentially said to have reached full retirement age and their benefit amount is not reduced for age, even if they are actually much younger than their retirement FRA. Benefit amounts for disability are based on your career earnings, much as they are for retirement or survivors benefits.
Assuming a person remains eligible for Social Security disability, there is no change in benefits received once they actually reach their retirement FRA. All that would take place is an internal SSA change moving them from disability to retirement, without any visible change to the person’s benefits.
If a person went off disability and later became eligible for retirement, the years of none or low earnings while on disability would not be used to compute the retirement amount.
Medicare coverage begins after a person receives disability benefits for two years. Whether based on disability or retirement, the Medicare coverage is the same.
To estimate your own Social Security disability amount, create a my Social Security account and view your personal Statement. It contains an estimated amount that assumes you become disabled this year.
Learn more about Social Security disability here.