When Can I Apply for Social Security?

If you are a healthy individual with the full capacity to work, the earliest you could apply for social security is at age 62. The program you would be applying for at this point would be for early retirement. The Social Security Administration is an independent agency which oversees the social insurance program consisting of retirement, disability, survivors benefit and Medicare health insurance. Each program has different requirements for application. The retirement program is simply age based. When you turn age 62 you are eligible to apply for early retirement, although this is not mandatory. If you elect to take early retirement, your monthly benefit amount will be reduced. Think of your social security retirement benefit as money in a pot. There is only a certain amount of money in that pot. If you decide to start withdrawing money from that pot earlier than 66 then your monthly benefit amount would need to be reduced so that the pot does not deplete too early. The average full retirement age is currently 66. Meaning, if you wait to apply for retirement until age 66 you will receive the benefits available for you, without a reduction. Some people elect not to draw from their retirement account until age 70. The reason you may want to wait until age 70 is that you will be able to continue to add money to your retirement pot so as to increase your monthly benefit up until the age of 70.  If you plan to apply for retirement benefits this must be done either in person or over the phone. Online applications are not accepted for this program.

The survivors’ benefits program has different requirements than the retirement program. If you are a widow or widower, you would be eligible to receive reduced retirement benefits at age 60. However, if you are age 50 or above and disabled, you may be eligible to receive survivor benefits earlier than age 60. If you plan to apply for survivor’s benefits this must be done either in person or over the phone with your local SSA office. Online applications are not accepted at this time.

If you are struggling to work due to a physical and/or mental condition, you may be eligible to apply for the disability program. This program, unlike retirement and survivor’s benefits, does not require you to be of a certain age. The requirement is that you meet Social Security’s definition of disability. This may sound easy but quite frankly it is not. While this program is not age restrictive, it does become easier to prove disability the older you are. If you are age 50 or higher, your application process may run smoother than someone who is in their mid 20’s. The reason being, SSA believes it is harder to retrain someone in their 50’s to do different work than a younger individual. This is all based on the requirement that to prove you are disabled you must show that you are unable to do your past work and also you are unable to do any other type of work in the national economy. That is where the re-training principle comes into play.

The application process for the disability program can be done online. While this program does not require a certain age, it does stop once you hit full retirement age. This is because both programs pull from a similar pot, the pot being the money you have paid in premiums to the retirement and disability program. So, once you hit full retirement age you will automatically be approved for retirement, therefore not necessitating the need to apply for disability. Remember, there is only one pot to draw from. Now, if you apply for early retirement knowing you will receive a reduced amount of benefits, you can file for disability at the same time. What you would be attempting to achieve with your disability application is a monthly benefit equaling that reduced amount you accepted when you elected to receive early retirement. The combination of early retirement and disability would then increase your monthly benefit to your full retirement amount, without having to wait until age 66. If all of this sounds confusing that is because it is. Hiring an attorney in this situation is the best thing you can do so as to ensure you are maximizing the benefits available to you.

The fourth program managed by the Social Security Administration is Medicare. Medicare is the federal health insurance program. This program is automatically available for individuals who are age 65. It is also available for individuals who are found to be medically disabled. However, the start date for Medicare coverage is not the disability date but two years from the date you are eligible to receive benefits. For example, you are found disabled as of January 1, 2015. There is a five-month wait period before you would be eligible to start receiving benefits. This is seen as a type of processing fee the government claims for the work they have done on your application. When considering the 5 monthly wait period you would be eligible to start receiving benefits as of June 1, 2015. What this means for Medicare health insurance is that you would be eligible for health insurance two years from this date, June 1, 2017. Keep in mind you are NOT required to participate in Medicare. It is simply a benefit that is available to individuals who are age 65 or disabled. It is not a mandated program for you. I suggest speaking with your local Medicare representative at the social security administration to see if this program is cost-effective for you or not. In some situations, sticking with private insurance or insurance through the veteran’s administration would be a wiser choice. Again, check with the local office to hear the pros and cons of you electing this benefit.

The Social Security Administration oversees multiple social insurance programs with each program having different eligibility requirements. What many people do not know is that you are able to apply for early retirement and disability at the same time. Keep in mind, if the reason you are trying to apply for a social security program is due to a physical and or mental condition, you should consider the disability program in your application process. It is wise to contact an experienced social security disability attorney so as to ensure you are maximizing the benefits available to you.

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