It is possible to collect retirement benefits and qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits concurrently if you meet SSI’s strict financial criteria. Generally, you cannot collect Social Security retirement and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits at the same time.
The SSDI program was created to fill in the gap between when you have to leave work due to a disabling condition and when you would be entitled to receive retirement benefits. If you apply for SSDI, and your claim is approved, you will receive SSDI benefits until you reach full retirement age, and then your benefits will switch automatically to retirement benefits without a change in the monthly amount that you receive.
As you near retirement age, you have the option to retire early at age 62 or wait until full retirement age. Full retirement age is the point at which you are entitled to 100 percent of monthly benefit amounts as determined by your lifetime earnings. If you apply for and are awarded SSDI benefits, your benefits are calculated as if you were at full retirement age.
Choosing to retire early means that your monthly benefit amount will be reduced permanently. Although it is risky to do so, and you should only do so after speaking with an experienced Social Security disability attorney, you can file a claim for SSDI benefits and retire early so that you can receive some funds in early retirement benefits while you wait to see if your SSDI claim will be approved. The risk is that if you apply for early retirement, and your SSDI claim is ultimately denied, you will continue to receive smaller retirement payments for the rest of your life.
If you decide to retire early, and your health worsens before you reach full retirement age, and you can prove that your disability began before you retired early, an approved SSDI claim will allow Social Security to retroactively pay you for up to 12 months of the difference between what you have received so far in early retirement and what you would have received with SSDI benefits.
Additionally, if you retire early for reasons that are not related to your health, but you become disabled, you can file for SSDI. In the event that your SSDI claim is approved, you will receive higher monthly benefits that are backdated to when you applied for SSDI.