Most of us recognize these lyrics from the iconic Beatles song. This could be the theme song for people with chronic illness, injuries, or other conditions that keep them from performing in the workplace like they did when they were younger. Those of us who were children or teens when this song became popular might be wondering just how many years we are going to be able to work.
What are your options if your health deteriorates and you can’t work until your full retirement age?
Full retirement age for people born after 1955 ranges from 66 years and 2 months up to 67 for those born after 1959. Medicare is available at age 65.
Here are your options if your health deteriorates before then, informed by my experience as a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability attorney:
1. File a Social Security Disability Insurance Claim at the Same Time as an Early Retirement Claim:
Many people just throw in the towel and apply for early retirement benefits when a decline in their health interferes with work. If they do that, they pass up the chance to file a Social Security Disability Insurance claim at the same time.
But if they file a disability claim at the same time as their early retirement claim and it is approved, they will receive approximately the same monthly benefit that they would have received if they had waited until full retirement age. This can increase their monthly benefit by several hundred dollars PLUS start their Medicare coverage before age 65 if they are over 62 years and 7 months old when their health stopped them from working (this date is referred to as the onset date.) See this earlier blog that discusses how to know what the correct onset date is.
While the disability claim is pending, they will receive their early retirement benefits. If the disability claim is approved, the monthly benefit for future months will increase and a past due benefit award will be issued for the difference between the higher and lower amounts for the past months that they were eligible for disability benefits and received early retirement benefits.
This approach has another advantage: it keeps the representative’s fees on the disability claim low because representatives only receive a percentage of the past due benefits that the claimant has not already received.
TIP: make sure to file a disability claim within 17 months of the onset date to avoid losing out on months of benefits.
2. Claim Benefits on a Retired Spouse (if you were born before January 1, 1954):
Many people file for their own retirement benefits instead of filing for spouse’s benefits on their retired spouse’s earnings record. Lawmakers closed a loophole for everyone born after January 1, 1954, but for people born before that, they can file a restricted application for spousal benefits (1/2 of the other spouse’s benefit) and let their own benefit grow to the maximum amount at age 70. This can put thousands of dollars more in the pocket of a married couple in their retirement years.
The calculations can be complicated, but it is worth sitting down and figuring it out. Many financial advisors call these strategies “Claim now, Claim more later” or “File and Suspend.” Here is a link to a Consumer Reports article that explains different strategies.
TIP: set up a MySSA account so you know the numbers and talk to your financial advisor.
3. File a Social Security Disability Insurance Claim:
Many people are resigned to waiting for years without any income, dipping into their retirement savings, sometimes paying a penalty to take money out of an IRA, paying for their own private health insurance or doing without, when they could simply file a Social Security Disability Insurance Claim.
If you file a Social Security Disability Insurance Claim and it is denied at the initial level, it will probably be in your best interest to get help from an attorney who focuses on Social Security Disability Insurance claims. Use keywords like "Southern Illinois Disability attorney", "Southern Illinois Social Security Disability representative", or "Southern Illinois Social Security attorney" to find a specialized local representative. Don’t gamble with one of the biggest investments of your working years. Here is one of my earlier blog articles that explains the odds of winning your claim at each level in the process.