The rules around Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can make receiving benefits a little more difficult. One common question is whether or not your disability benefits will change once you reach retirement age. 

In sum, the amount you receive for disability benefits won’t change once you reach your full Social Security retirement age. However, your disability benefits convert to retirement benefits when you reach full retirement age. We’ll go over what this means and how it might impact you.  

Key takeaways:

  • Your disability benefit amount won’t change once you reach your full retirement age (which is between 66 and 67, depending on your birth year). 

  • SSDI benefits automatically turn into retirement benefits once you reach your full retirement age.

  • There are a few situations that can affect your benefit amount once you reach retirement age. 

What is Social Security Disability Insurance?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal assistance program for people who can’t work because of a disability. If you’re eligible, the government gives you monthly benefits based on how much you’ve earned in your lifetime and how much you paid in Social Security taxes while working.

Who is eligible for SSDI?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a strict set of eligibility requirements you must meet before you can start receiving assistance. 

  • You must have a qualifying disability as determined by the SSA. This disability has to have prevented you from working for one year or longer. 

  • You must have a work history and have earned a certain amount of work credits. The work credits you need depends on your age. 

  • You can’t also be receiving retirement benefits.

Because SSDI is based on your recent work history, you can’t receive both SSDI and retirement benefits at the same time. While they’re both managed by the SSA, SSDI and retirement benefits don’t stack to  provide double assistance. Seniors who receive retirement benefits from Social Security are typically not eligible to apply for SSDI, but there are other options for financial aid for low-income seniors

How does turning 65 impact your disability benefits?

According to definitions set by the SSA, your “full retirement age” is based on what year you were born. If you were born after 1960, your full retirement age is 67-years-old. Once you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert into Social Security retirement benefits. The amount of benefits you get remains the same—the only difference is the type of benefit. 

People may think that turning 65 impacts your disability benefits because that’s when you can retire and apply for retirement benefits. While you can retire at 65, your Social Security retirement benefits can be reduced if you elect to start receiving them at 65, before you reach your full retirement age. However, you are eligible for Medicare at the age of 65.

If you’ve been collecting disability benefits for at least 24 months, you are qualified to enroll in Medicare, regardless of your age.

What can impact how much you get for disability benefits when you retire?

While they won’t apply to everyone, these are the most common situations that could cause your disability benefit to be affected once you reach full retirement age:

  • You receive pension from a job where you didn’t pay taxes to Social Security 

  • You receive a widower’s benefit

  • You receive other disability benefits

  • You get married or divorced

Depending on the circumstances, your benefit could be reduced or increased. For example, if you receive pension from a nonprofit you used to work for in retirement, your SSDI benefit may be reduced. Contact your local Social Security Administration office for more information specific to your case. 

Should you apply for retirement benefits or SSDI if you qualify for both?

SSDI and retirement benefits are calculated differently. Let’s say you have a choice between claiming your retirement benefits early at 62 and applying for SSDI. It’s better to apply for SSDI because you’d receive reduced retirement benefits if you claim them before your full retirement age. Simply put, if you qualify for SSDI, your benefit amount will be higher. And once you reach your full retirement age, the disability benefit turns into retirement benefit.

Other benefits with SSDI

While your disability benefits won’t change when you reach your full retirement age, there are other benefits you may be eligible for with SSDI. As mentioned above, Medicare is one important source of relief for people receiving SSDI. If you need help understanding your Medicare options or using your health insurance benefits, a licensed Medicare Advisor at Chapter can help! Call us at 855-900-2427 or schedule a time to chat to get started.

Get Medicare, Maximized