Social Security disability benefits for older workers

In my practice, I meet with a lot of people who get injured and keep returning to work. Some of them do very physical jobs or work on their feet all day. Some of these people will not be able to do their jobs to the Social Security Administration’s full retirement age of 66+ years old. Many workers who are in their late fifties or early sixties with arm, knee, hip, back and/or neck problems have more and more pain after working for eight hours. These workers are thinking about giving up and taking their reduced Social Security retirement benefits at 62. I see this happening more and more to nurses, nurses’ aides, retail workers, laborers, etc.

If this sounds familiar to you, don’t forget that you might be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if you can no longer do your job due to injuries or illness.  The Social Security system serves both as a retirement program and as a disability insurance program. When you have Social Security withheld from your wages or you pay self-employment taxes, you are paying for this security. Hopefully, most people will reach retirement age without becoming legally disabled. However, some people are not so lucky. If you have paid into the system adequately and become disabled, you can receive Social Security disability benefits prior to reaching full retirement age.

Why does this matter? If you take your reduced Social Security retirement benefits at 62 or before you reach your full retirement age, you will be penalized each month for the rest of your life. The full retirement age for those born between 1943 and 1954 is age 66, for those born between 1955 and 1959, it increases in two-month increments for each year up to age 66 and 10 months, and, for those born in 1960 and later, it is age 67. If you are granted Social Security disability benefits, the amount of disability benefits you receive is the same amount as your full retirement benefits. If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, those benefits will be converted to retirement benefits.

You may also file for Social Security Disability benefits, and take your early retirement benefits while you wait for your disability decision.

The bottom line is that if you are over 55 years old and if you are struggling to maintain the physical aspects of your job due to health reasons, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. You should not simply give up and take your reduced Social Security retirement benefits. You should consider applying for Social Security disability benefits.