This is an interesting question with a complex answer. It is best first to know how the social security system runs before we I go into detail about the regulations of Social Security Disability, or SSD. The Social Security Administration, or SSA, is a federally run administrative agency. This agency manages our society’s retirement system, disability program, along with Medicare health insurance. To qualify for retirement, you must simply meet the age criteria. For most Americans, the full retirement age is 66. This age may increase depending upon your date of birth but for right now it is 66. Similar to other private retirement programs, you can start receiving this money early, but at a reduced rate since you will be collecting those benefits for a longer period of time. The earliest you could start to receive retirement benefits is age 62.
In terms of health insurance, Medicare is a federally run health insurance program. This program is typically available for the elderly but is also made available for those who are found disabled. You are eligible for Medicare benefits at age 65. In terms of disability, you will be eligible for Medicare two years from the date you are eligible to start receiving disability benefits. This is not the date you are found disabled but the date you are eligible to receive your first check or payment effective date. For example, Mr. Smith was found disabled as of January 15, 2015. SSA imposes a five-month wait period before being eligible to receive benefits. Think of this is a processing fee from SSA. Five full months from January 15, 2015, would be July 2015. Therefore, you would receive your first monthly check as of July 2015. Now in terms of Medicare, that will go into play two years from when you received your first check, that dates being July 2017.
Now that we understand the retirement and Medicare program let’s discuss disability. SSD is available for those individuals who suffer from a physical or mental condition that prevents them from working. You are eligible to receive disability benefits up until your full retirement age. So for most people you qualify for benefits up until you turn age 66. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes you may be age 66 or higher when you apply for disability. This is because you would be applying for benefits you claim you should have received in the past. These SSD benefits would not be a monthly check going forward, your monthly check is your retirement check. One thing to note is that you are eligible to receive early retirement benefits at age 62 and also apply for the SSD program. As mentioned above, when you receive early retirement benefits you take them at a reduced rate. When you apply for SSD you are trying to get the difference between your early retirement rate and what your full retirement amount would be. This amount is typical $100-$200 more in your monthly check over the course of time. It doesn’t sound significant but it certainly adds up. The other benefit of applying for SSD while on early retirement is the possibility of obtaining Medicare benefits prior to age 65.
If all of this sounds very confusing that is because it is. What you should keep in mind is that you can file for SSD benefits even if you are at full retirement age. In those situations, I highly recommend obtaining an experienced social security disability attorney to guide you through the process.