Some questions come up again and again at my office.  One of the most common questions goes like this: “I am 62 and I cannot do my job anymore. I’m missing work. My co-workers and boss are picking up the slack for me.  I’m struggling to figure out what I should do next. Should I apply for Social Security retirement or disability?”

The answer to this question is usually “both.”

You cannot receive Social Security Disability benefits and Social Security retirement benefits at the same time, but you can apply for both at the same time.

You may have heard that it’s impossible to receive disability benefits and retirement benefits at the same time.  This is true.  But you can file a claim for both types of benefits if you are 62 or older, unable to work, and you have contributed enough into the Social Security system.

If you are 62 and have recently become disabled, applying for both retirement and Social Security Disability benefits is a wise financial choice.

If you apply for both types of benefits (Social Security Early Retirement and Social Security Disability Insurance), you will start receiving early retirement benefits right away while the disability claim is pending.

If the disability claim is approved, you and your family will experience 3 major financial advantages:

  • You will receive retroactive disability benefits for you and your qualified dependents (beginning with the 6th month after your onset date, in most cases);
  • You will qualify for Medicare before age 65 (if your 65th birthday is more than 29 months from your disability onset date); and
  • You will receive a higher monthly benefit for the rest of your life (roughly equal to the retirement benefit amount you would have received if you waited to retire at your full retirement age).

The Social Security Administration offers a benefit calculator for early vs late retirement to help you decide when to retire.  AARP also has an informative article, Should I Take My Social Security Benefits at 62?

Sometimes people who are over 65 and drawing retirement benefits ask me if they can go back and file for disability benefits.

That will work only if they stopped work more than 6 months before age 65 and they haven’t been drawing retirement benefits very long.

You cannot draw disability insurance benefits after age 65.

Both caseworkers and Social Security Disability lawyers can help.

The SSA website does not make this very clear, but a caseworker can help with these kinds of claims.  (Caseworkers are the people who work at your local Social Security office.)  Even if you have already filed for early retirement, if you do not wait too long, you can still file a disability claim.

Joni Beth Bailey is a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability attorney.