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Disability Benefits and Retirement Age

Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are distributed through the Social Security Administration (SSA) for those who have become disabled and unable to work, yet are too young to start receiving retirement benefits.

When you are employed, you pay into the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) fund through your payroll taxes. In this way, your SSDI contributions can be used in the event that you are forced to retire early due to your disability, as you will still be too young to receive your retirement benefits. Note that SSDI benefits are different from SSI benefits, which are paid through general taxes and are only available for low-income people or those without a work history.

SSDI Benefits for Early Retirement

If you are disabled and collect SSDI benefits through the SSA, they will be converted to retirement benefits when you reach the full retirement age. One exception to this rule is if you take early retirement. At age 62, you will become eligible to take early retirement through the Social Security Administration (SSA).

If you were disabled before the early retirement benefits start, the SSA will retroactively pay the different between your retirement benefits and SSDI benefits for the months that you were disabled but receiving the early retirement benefits. On the other hand, if you were collecting early retirement benefits and then became disabled and applied for your SSDI benefits, the SSA would not pay the different in amounts.

SSDI Benefits for Retirement Age

The full retirement age in the United States generally falls between 65 and 67. Your age of full retirement depends on the year you were born. The following years of birth determine your age of full retirement:

  • 1937 or before, it is 65 years old
  • 1938, it is 65 and two months
  • 1939, it is 65 and four months
  • 1940, it is 65 and six months
  • 1941, it is 65 and eight months
  • 1942, it is 65 and ten months
  • Between 1943 and 1954, it is 66 years old
  • 1955, it is 66 and two months
  • 1956, it is 66 and four months
  • 1957, it is 66 and six months
  • 1958, it is 66 and eight months
  • 1959, it is 66 and ten months
  • 1960 or later, it is 67 years old

When you do reach full retirement age, there is not much difference to how you receive benefits. The amount of money will neither increase nor decrease when you switch benefit type. One small change is that your benefits money will come from a different place – the SSA’s retirement benefits fund instead of the SSA’s SSDI benefits fund.

Another change to your benefits is that there is no more earning limit in place for retirement benefits, as there is for SSDI benefits. This means that you can increase the amount of money you make through a part time job or other source of income after you retire, and it will in no way affect your retirement benefits amount.


Hi Jules,
The "substantial gainful activity" limit for SSDI is $1,130 per month, and that limit applies to any money that you earn while working.

If you are rec disability payments and you become eligible for a retirement payment from your last work place, do you lose your monthly ret. Pay from social security?

If you're getting SSI, those payment may affect your benefits because SSI is based off of income. If you are getting SSDI benefits, then those would not change because those benefits are based off of work history rather than income levels.


Hi Robert,
I really do not know the answer to that. You will earn 75% of your full retirement benefit, but it's impossible to know without knowing how much you earned while working.

Hi Tirath,
I would not be able to say how much you would get in disability because it depends on which program you would be getting benefits from and what the SSA decides you are eligible for.

Hi, I'm considering applying for SSD due to multiples health conditions, but I'm holding off as long as my body can take working. My problem is, I can't afford not to work . I earn 21,000 a year and I don't think Social Security Disability will pay enough. Can you at least give me an idea as to much I could receive. Thank you

I have a progressive eye disorder which I fear may shorten my now 42 year career as a Dental Hygienist. I wanted to work till full retirement age and part time beyond that. I am now 60 and wonder if I must file for disability before age 62 to collect the higher benefit or would I be forced to take early retirement instead. I hope to continue to work and hold this disease in check but that is an unknown at this point.

Hi Rhonda,
I'm sorry to hear that! You don't have to file for disability, but if you do you'd be getting the full benefit amount you would be entitled to ( and the amount doesn't change after the benefits convert to retirement benefits) if you were awarded benefits, while if you retire early you would get a lower benefit amount.

My brother in law has colon cancer and is undergoing radiation and chemo treatments now. He will have surgery in July then recovery then chemo for 4 months. He only has short term disability. His company says after 6 months they will have to terminate. He will turn 64 in May. Would he quality for disability? they are saying he will be out at least a year. If so when should he apply?

Hi Barbra,
I would say that he should apply as soon as possible, colon cancer is on the SSA's Compassionate Allowance list so he may be able to get his claim expedited.

Hi Joyce,
You may be able to, but most likely only within the SSA's limits for substantial gainful activity.

Hi Starr,
If they are 62 or older, then they may be eligible for early retirement.

Hi Deanna. I looked up the calculator to try and figure out how you compute how much SSDI you would receive, but I'm feeling kind of lost at this point. If I made roughly 100,000 for four out of the last five years, and only made about 50,000 last year, do you know what my SSDI benefits would be?

Hi Howard,
You would need to use your earnings averaged over the last ten years to calculate your benefits.

I have already received SSDI, and am wanting to get my pension plan from my previous employer. Are there any laws that will prevent me from being penalized from taking it early? Actually, my previous employer was a hospital and I'm quite afraid they will take this benefit away from the few of us "oldies" who earned it back when pension was a thing. They've taken away so much from employees, past and present, I want to get what I can while I can. What would you suggest? Would the attorney who helped me during the SSDI process still be available to me if it has been less than a year since I was granted SSDI? Geez, I worked hard for my money at that hospital, I want what I earned instead of seeing it go to more bonuses for the CEO!

Hi Karen,
You would need to ask your former employer regarding their pension plan, if you're on SSDI, there are few limits or restrictions on unearned income, which your pension plan would be.

I was born 1939 , I applied for SS at 62 ! Was this age considered early or full benefits ! If this means I applied too early , no one told me I would need to wait until 65 for full benefits ! If they had , I would have waited !

Hi Ann,
62 is the minimum age for retirement, and you benefits would be reduced.

I've been on full disability since 2007 after sustaining a back injury that required surgery a week later where they installed pins,screws,wire, synthetic spacer between vertebrae in my lower back along with fusing several situation is I don't make enough to pay my monthly bills and I'm on the verge of losing my home I've applied at every place I can think and get the same answer .....I make too much for any help at all (by less than 200 dollars) I'm not even sure I can work a part time job but I can't lose my benefits because of a try. I have no family and seems like no options, I worked my whole life and now seems like being punished for it. My home is all I have and I'm losing it ,I need help and can't get it. Any suggestions would make me very grateful, as my quality of life is non existant.

Hi Brian,
I'm sorry to hear about that! You may want to reach out to organizations in your community that help with housing, they may be able to help you.