Can I get a disability if I already have Social Security?

Q. I collect Social Security, but am now disabled. Can I also collect WAO benefits?

– Insecure

A. We are sorry to hear about your disability.

In most cases, you cannot collect the Social Security Pension and the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) at the same time.

But it might be better to take the disability benefits, depending on the timing of your disability and when you started taking Social Security, said Matthew DeFelice, a certified financial planner with US Financial Services in Fairfield.

The Social Security Administration created the SSDI program to bridge the gap between when someone has to leave the workforce because of a disability and when they can get a retirement benefit, he said.

However, some people become disabled after they start taking Social Security, he said.

“If you become disabled after applying for early retirement, you may be able to switch to SSDI,” he said. “Likewise, if you retire early but discover too late that an existing condition may have qualified you for a higher disability benefit, you may be able to claim it retroactively.”

He gave this example. Suppose you started collecting Social Security at age 62 for reasons unrelated to your health, and you receive a reduced benefit for filing before full retirement age, which is 66 or 67 for people who were born between 1943 and 1960. Six months later, you have a stroke and become disabled. You can then submit an SSDI application and if the claim is approved, you will receive a higher benefit retroactive to the time you applied for disability. You still won’t get your full retirement benefits, but the “reduction factor” for early retirement will shrink from 4+ years to just the period when you were only eligible for retirement benefits, he said.

But qualifying for SSDI can be difficult, and it’s not uncommon for claims to be rejected, DeFelice said.

“Social Security has a strict definition of incapacity for work: you are considered incapacitated when you are no longer able to perform a ‘substantial’ amount of work due to a physical or mental disability that is expected to last for a minimum of 12 months , or possibly death,” he said. “For the Social Security Administration, a significant amount of work is defined as earning $1,350 or more per month, or $2,260 per month for people who are blind, by 2022.”

In addition, if you’ve already waited until full retirement age or later to start taking Social Security and then became disabled, all of the above is a moot point, he said.

There is one more exception to the rule.

“While most people can’t collect the pension from Social Security and SSDI at the same time to increase your benefits beyond the full pension amount, there is a program that allows some individuals to collect additional income,” he said.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Social Security program that helps seniors and people with disabilities with extremely low incomes or limited assets.

To qualify for SSI, you must meet strict income qualifications and have only minimal resources, DeFelice said. The SSA defines “resources” as anything that can be converted into cash, such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, land, personal property, or permanent life insurance.

“In terms of income restrictions, by 2022 individuals must have less than $861 per month and couples must have less than $1,281 per month in unearned income to receive SSI,” he said. “Under this program, your retirement or SSDI checks count as unearned income.”

You must also meet other financial qualifications to receive these benefits, and the maximum monthly payment you can receive is $861 for individuals and $1,281 for couples, he said.

Mail your questions to [email protected].

Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. Find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Sign up for‘s weekly e-newsletter.

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