Can I get both SSDI and Social Security Retirement Benefits?

When making decisions about whether to continue working or take time off after a cancer diagnosis, it is important to understand your options so that you can make an educated decision. Disability insurance (e.g., SSDI) is a way to replace your wages if you need to take time off work because of a medical condition. Can I get SSDI and Social Security?

For an overview of disability insurance options, read our Quick Guide to Disability Insurance, or watch our recent webinar on Taking Time Off & Paying For It. One option is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is one of the two federal long-term disability programs.

Depending on your age, you may also be considering retiring early or at your full retirement age and receive Social Security retirement benefits. We often get asked:

“Can you get both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Social Security retirement benefits?”

For the most part, the answer is no. If you are receiving SSDI because you have a disability and are unable to work, you are effectively receiving your retirement benefits early. If your disability continues through to the time when you would normally retire, your SSDI benefit will just automatically convert to Social Security retirement benefits and the amount of money you receive each month will not change.

The Exception
There is one exception and that is early retirement. You can file for early retirement (which you are eligible for at 62), while you are waiting for your disability claim to be approved. You would receive a reduced retirement benefit (currently 25% less than your full retirement benefit amount) right away. If you are approved for SSDI, you will begin to receive your full retirement amount. You could also receive prorated retroactive payments for any time that you were determined to be disabled and were receiving reduced benefits.

The Risk/Reward of Early Retirement
If you take early retirement and then never apply for, or are never approved, for SSDI, you will receive a reduced monthly retirement benefit amount for the rest of your life.  That’s the risk.

But if you are approved for SSDI for a disability that began before your early retirement, your benefit payment will rise back up to the full amount. Furthermore, the Social Security Administration will enact a “disability freeze” on your earnings.  This is important because the amount of your retirement benefits and SSDI benefits are determined by your earnings record over your lifetime.  Zero earning or low earning years reduce the amount of benefits that you are eligible to receive.

If you are found to have a disability that began after you took early retirement, you would not get the benefit of a “disability freeze.” Furthermore, you would receive the higher SSDI payments only until the time that you turned your full retirement age, then your payments would return to the reduced early retirement amount for the remainder of your life.

Understanding the rules is the first step in getting the maximum benefits for which you are eligible.

Can’t Afford to Take Time Off?

A cancer diagnosis can bring a lot of unexpected expenses. And if you have to take Triage Cancer Blog SSA Disability Insurancetime off work, how do you still pay your bills? Disability insurance can help you manage the costs of a cancer diagnosis.

However, navigating the various disability insurance options can be a challenge. The first step is to learn about the different types of disability insurance you may be qualified to receive.

If you are unable to work because of your medical condition, depending on your diagnosis, time spent working and contributing to the Social Security retirement system in the past, you may be eligible for federal disability benefits through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), state disability insurance programs, disability insurance offered by your employer, or private disability insurance that you buy directly from an insurance company.

SSDI is a federal program through the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provides a monthly payment for those who have worked for a sufficient amount of time, contributed to the Social Security retirement system by paying taxes, and meet SSA’s definition of disability. After receiving SSDI benefits for two years, recipients are also entitled to Medicare.

SSI is also a SSA program that pays monthly benefits to the elderly, blind, and people who have disabilities and very low income and assets. These payments begin immediately, and you would be able to receive them during the SSDI waiting period if you qualify for both SSI and SSDI. Typically, people who receive SSI benefits and are eligible for Medicaid.

Both the SSDI and SSI programs have the same standard of “disability.” To be considered “disabled” by Social Security, you must be “unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity (or any work activity where you earn more than $1,130 in 2016) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that is expected to result in death or has lasted, or can be expected to last, for a continuous period of 12 months.”

If you are approved you will receive a letter with a date of “disability onset,” this date is the date that SSA believes your disability began and the start date of your “waiting period.” You must wait five months from this date before you will begin to receive SSDI benefits. Your monthly disability payment is calculated using a formula that takes into account how much you have paid in Social Security taxes over your work history.

If your initial application for SSDI or SSI is not approved you have the option of appealing the denial. In most states you can request a reconsideration of your application. If you are still denied, you may request a hearing by an administrative law judge (ALJ). If you are deemed disabled after appeals processes, you may receive retroactive payments.

In addition to the federal disability insurance programs, some states offer state disability insurance. California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico offer short-term disability insurance benefits to those who are unable to work due to a medical condition.

Private and employer-sponsored disability insurance is another option for you to consider. Private insurance is available for purchase directly from an insurance company. In some cases, employers offer both short and long-term disability coverage for their employees. A policy usually provides regular payments that replace a portion of your salary. One important thing to note is that you may qualify for your employer-based policy, even if you don’t qualify for SSDI or SSI.

Resources

Triage Cancer has resources to help you find out more about disability insurance and how it can help you:

  • Review our quick guide on Disability Insurance to see what type of disability insurance benefits might be available to you.
  • We also have a recent webinar, Demystifying Disability Insurance, delivered by Monica Bryant, Esq., CEO of Triage Cancer, which provides more detailed information on these options!

For more information about the Social Security Administration’s disability benefits, visit: www.ssa.gov/disabilityssi or read this guide: www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10029.pdf.

How disability insurance can help pay the bills

disability insuranceOne common concern after receiving a cancer diagnosis is, “How can I continue to earn a living if cancer leaves me unable to work, either for the short-term or long-term?” Disability insurance can provide you with some income when a medical condition, including cancer, leaves you unable to work. The federal government, some state governments, and private insurance companies offer different types of disability insurance benefits.  The key is to figure out which one fits best with your needs and situation. Federal disability insurance includes two programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which are both administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  In order to receive federal SSA disability benefits, your cancer diagnosis and/or side effects from treatment must keep you from working on a  long-term basis, which is at least one year or longer.  You can receive SSDI benefits if you are “insured,” meaning that you have a long enough work history and have paid Social Security taxes.  You are able to receive SSI benefits, if you have a low income, and are age 65+, or blind, or have a disability. If you live in California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, or Rhode Island, you may qualify for short-term disability insurance from the state.  The amount varies per state, but the maximum amount of time that you can receive benefits for a short-term disability is between six to twelve months. Private disability insurance is another option for both short-term and long-term disability insurance benefits, and can be purchased directly from an insurance company or it can be available to you as an employee benefit from your employer.  Some individuals choose to purchase private disability insurance to supplement state or federal disability benefits, since they typically only pay a portion of a person’s income.  For example, the average payout from Social Security benefits is only about 40% of a person’s salary and some state disability insurance programs only pay about 50% of a person’s salary. For a quick guide to disability insurance, click here. For more information about SSDI, click here. For more information about SSI, click here. To find your state disability insurance program, click here.