If you become disabled before the age of retirement, the U.S. Social Security Administration pays for disability benefits through the Social Security Disability (SSD) program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. If you have not yet reached retirement age, you may be eligible to receive SSD benefits, the benefit program for people who have paid Social Security tax but have not yet retired.
Retirement and Disability
You may receive Social Security benefits before retirement age, but you do not necessarily qualify to receive retirement benefits. As long as you are eligible to receive retirement benefits upon retirement age because you have been paying Social Security tax, if you become disabled, you are eligible to receive SSD benefits. These benefits work in the same way retirement benefits do. In fact, they are the same type of benefit, but the requirements for eligibility are different. SSD is a benefit you may be eligible to receive if you are younger than retirement age, and retirement benefits are benefits you are eligible to receive if you have retired.
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Social Security Disability
The SSD program pays benefits to individuals who have paid Social Security tax and who have a disability. To qualify to receive these benefits, your disability must last more than a year or be terminal. SSD benefits are a substitute for retirement benefits because they work in the same way and you get paid based on the same funds. The amount of benefits you receive depends on your average earnings from before you became disabled. If you continue to receive disability benefits until you reach retirement age, once you reach retirement age, your monthly disability benefits become retirement benefits.
Although SSD and retirement benefits may be viewed as the same thing at different phases of your life, you may find several differences between the programs. First, you do not have to be disabled to receive retirement benefits. Second, retirement benefits last from the moment you start receiving them to the moment you die. SSD benefits only last for as long as your eligibility lasts. If you reach full retirement age, you are eligible to receive higher benefits than you were when you were younger than retirement age and disabled.
Disability and Evaluation
To qualify to receive benefits before retirement age, you must meet the disability criteria that the Social Security Administration uses. You must file your disability claim, and the Social Security Administration forwards your disability case to the appropriate state's Disability Determination Services office, the Social Security department responsible for deciding whether you are disabled or not. This process may take months.