What Happens to Your Disability Benefits When You Retire

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People nearing retirement age who have already been receiving Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) often wonder what will happen once they are eligible for retirement benefits.

For many reasons, adults may suffer an illness, injury, or other medical condition that makes it impossible for them to work. In these situations, they may receive Social Security disability insurance benefits that help to pay for living expenses. They may also be eligible for Medicaid. Medicaid is a public health care program that pays for doctor’s visits, medical services, and prescription drugs.

Key Takeaways

  • Once you reach retirement age, your Social Security disability benefits will automatically switch over to Social Security retirement benefits.
  • Compassionate Allowances could fast-track someone's disability benefits if they are approaching retirement age and have certain severe conditions.
  • If you retire early, you may receive reduced benefits, depending on your situation.

Disability Benefits at Retirement Age

Social Security disability benefits will automatically switch over to Social Security retirement benefits once the individual reaches their eligible age of retirement but the amount remains the same.

If they are eligible for Social Security spousal benefits, they will also receive this payment each month—however, they must apply to receive this benefit. In many cases, the monthly benefit amount received will not change, and may increase depending on how long the individual worked. Other considerations include if they currently receive a monthly pension, and how much was earned toward Social Security retirement benefits before they became disabled.

Compassionate Allowance Rule

There are some other, special circumstances for people who are receiving Social Security disability benefits. Under the Compassionate Allowances determination, the Social Security Administration may provide additional allowances and fast-track benefits for those who are the most disabled and meet certain medical criteria.

For example, someone facing a life-threatening illness and nearing retirement age may be eligible for this determination.

How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Social Security disability benefits depends on a few things. An individual must have worked for at least 10 years, and have a medical condition that is determined to be an actual disability under Social Security rules.


A Social Security disability lawyer can help to define these factors to ensure that the individual can get this benefit, and it may take a few years to start receiving monthly disability checks.

This can include a catastrophic injury or illness, a physical or mental impairment, or another medical condition that prevents one from holding meaningful employment.

How to Decide Whether or Not to Retire Early

If you choose to retire early at the age of 62, your retirement benefit is reduced until you reach full retirement age. If you are already receiving disability benefits, you are likely already receiving your full retirement amount. So, many people who are receiving disability benefits would receive higher payments if they chose to remain on disability instead of retiring early.


The decision to retire is entirely up to each person. It is recommended that you speak with a knowledgeable attorney and financial advisor before taking this step.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What happens to my pension if I go on disability?

Your Social Security disability benefits may be reduced if your pension is from a job that didn't pay social security taxes. Jobs that may not have paid are typically government- or nonprofit-related positions.

What happens to Social Security disability when you turn 62?

You can continue to receive social security benefits with no change if you do not choose to retire early. If you do choose to retire early, your benefits may be reduced.

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  1. Social Security Administration. "What You Need to Know When You Get Social Security Disability Benefits."

  2. Social Security Administration. "Compassionate Allowances."

  3. Social Security Administration. "How You Qualify | Disability Benefits."

  4. Social Security Administration. "Early or Late Retirement?"

  5. Berger and Green. "Can You Collect Social Security Retirement and Disability at the Same Time?"

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