Experienced Disability Lawyers

Social Security Disability and retirement

On Behalf of | May 23, 2023 | Social Security Disability

Most Americans know the Social Security Administration as the agency that provides retirement benefits to millions of Americans. However, the agency also oversees two other benefits programs that can help people before they reach retirement age if they are unable to work for a living: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

All three programs have their own eligibility requirements, and they act together in specific ways. In this blog post, we’ll briefly discuss the programs and how they interact with Social Security retirement.


SSI is intended for disabled adults and children who have very limited income. For instance, a person who is born blind and is therefore unable to do many kinds of work may receive a small amount in SSI benefits to prove them with some much-needed income. Once they meet retirement age, they can receive some retirement benefits through Social Security if they meet the financial eligibility standards.

By contrast, SSD, is intended for people who have been working for a number of years before, because of illness, injury or some other condition, they become disabled. As with Social Security retirement benefits, all American workers pay into the SSD system during their working years.

Eligibility for SSD

Eligibility for SSD benefits is based on two main factors: the extent of the disability and the applicant’s work history.

The Social Security Administration has a long list of conditions it considers as possibly qualifying for disability benefits. An applicant must provide ample evidence, including medical records, work records and more, showing that they have one of the qualifying conditions and that it is preventing them from working for a living.

It isn’t easy to collect this evidence and present it to the Social Security Administration in a convincing manner, but even if you can do so, you must also satisfy the other factor.

For the most part, to be eligible for SSD benefits, a person must have worked for at least five of the previous 10 years. This can leave out younger workers and those who have been out of the workforce for a long time.

SSD and retirement benefits

SSD benefits are intended to provide income for workers who have become disabled before they reach retirement age. Once they reach full retirement age (66 or 67, depending on the year they were born) their SSD benefits convert to retirement benefits. A person cannot receive retirement benefits and SSD benefits at the same time.