What Happens to Social Security Disability Benefits After Age 65?

The key date on which you become eligible for your full Social Security Retirement benefit is not necessarily your 65th birthday. The magic date is when you reach “full retirement age” (FRA), which the Social Security Administration has pushed back for most people still of working age.

Your Social Security Disability lawyer will guide you to the answer for your particular case, but your full retirement age depends on when you were born. (More about that later.)

But let’s answer the question as though the person asking was born in or before 1937 because 65 was their full retirement age. If your full retirement age was 65, and you were receiving Social Security Disability (SSD or SSDI) benefits, the SSDI benefits payment would stop, but the same amount would continue to be paid to you through the Social Security Retirement program.

Why is the Social Security Retirement payment the same as your SSD payment?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates the amount of your Social Security Retirement benefit with the same equation it uses to determine your SSDI benefit. Because they use the same equation to calculate the amounts, the payments come out to the same figure.

Attorney Daniel Berger is an experienced SSD lawyer who can explain precisely what the equation is and how it applies to your claim. That’s why using a skilled SSDI attorney who knows everything about SSI and Social Security Retirement is so important. Attorney Berger and nydisability.com help clients work through these laws and regulations every day.

There are some circumstances in which a person could increase the benefit amounts somewhat. The amount of your SSD benefit payment and your Social Security Retirement payment is determined by calculating the amount of your annual indexed monthly earnings (AIME) looking back over the 35 years in which you made the most taxable income.

When a person suffers a physical or mental impairment qualifying them for SSDI benefits, they typically don’t resume full-time employment. If they do recover enough to return to work, hurray for them!! But if the SSD benefit recipient never returns to work, then their lifetime earnings will remain unchanged until they reach full retirement age. That’s why the amount of the Social Security Retirement benefit would be the same as their SSD benefit.

Working can increase the Social Security Retirement above the SSDI benefit amount.

If the SSA determines someone is totally disabled and eligible for SSDI benefits, they can still earn some income without losing their usual SSDI payment. Attorney Daniel Berger and nydisability.com are experts in helping SSD recipients understand how the rules will impact their benefit payments. Get the expertise you need by consulting an SSDI attorney like Daniel Berger before you make any changes in your status. Let’s review how the rules apply generally.

A person remains eligible for their full benefit if they earn less than the amount the SSA deems to be “substantial gainful activity” (SGA), set in 2021 at $1,390 per month for a non-blind recipient. (A blind recipient can earn less than $2,190.)

The Social Security Administration also established the Trial Work Period (TWP) program to encourage recipients of SSDI benefits to try working again without any benefit penalty. The program allows SSDI recipients to work as much as they feel they can, and to earn as much income as possible, for up to 9 months while still receiving their full SSDI benefits. Any month in which a recipient’s earnings exceed the SGA income limit will count as one of the TWP months. The 9 TWP months do not need to be consecutive and can spread over five years.

How can TWP increase your Social Security Retirement and SSDI benefit?

The income an SSDI recipient earns during their Trial Work Period is incorporated into their Average Indexed Monthly Income (AIME) which is the base for calculating the amount of someone’s SSDI and Social Security Retirement benefit. By increasing their AIME, the recipient can boost their benefit amount. The increase can be small, but it will be added, nonetheless.

Filing early for Social Security Retirement will lower an SSDI benefit

As we noted earlier, a person’s “full retirement age” (FRA) depends on their year of birth. For people born in 1955, the FRA is 66 years and 2 months. For each successive year from 1956 to 1960, the full retirement age is 2 months later.

  • People born in 1956 reach full retirement age at 66 years and 4 months
  • People born in 1957 reach FRA at 66 years and 6 months
  • People born in 1958 reach FRA at 66 years and 8 months
  • People born in 1959 reach FRA at 66 years and 10 months
  • People born in or after 1960 reach FRA at age is 67

Since a person can file for Social Security Retirement benefits as early as age 62, that person will not have reached their full retirement age and are not entitled to their full retirement benefit. However, if that 62-year-old was receiving SSDI benefits, their SSDI benefits payment is the same as their full retirement benefit would be. So, if a 62-year-old SSDI recipient filed for the Social Security Retirement at age 61, they would permanently reduce their monthly benefit amount by about 20 percent. The lost benefits could be worth tens of thousands of dollars over a person’s remaining lifetime.

In most circumstances, an SSDI benefit recipient should wait to reach their full retirement age before filing for Social Security Retirement benefits.