Ask Larry

How Do I Switch From Disability To Social Security Retirement?

I am on SSI Dissability and would like to try to work but don’t want to lose it. I will turn 62 in 2023. How do I switch to social security retirement so that I can earn substantially and still have my SS? I know it will be substantially lower but I am unable to live on just the SS and hoping to be able to work and earn enough to pay my bills but don’t want to lose the disability if I try to work.

Hi. My answer assumes that the benefits you receive are Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits, not Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a needs based program administered by Social Security, and if that's what you receive then you'd be required to apply for Social Security retirement benefits when you reach age 62.

You could apply for Social Security retirement benefits when you reach age 62 and elect to receive those benefits instead of SSDI benefits, but if you do so your benefit rate will go down by roughly 25%. That's because Social Security retirement benefits are reduced for age if you start them prior to your full retirement age (FRA), whereas SSDI benefits are not reduced for age.

Furthermore, just switching to Social Security retirement benefits wouldn't mean that you could earn an unlimited amount and still collect benefits. That's due to the Social Security earnings test (, which would require Social Security to withhold $1 of your Social Security retirement benefits for each $2 that you earn in excess of $21,240 in 2023.

Also, you wouldn't necessarily lose your SSDI benefits if you return to work. If you haven't previously worked since you went on SSDI, you could earn an unlimited amount for at least 9 months without losing any of your SSDI benefits. After your 9 month trial work period is completed, though, your SSDI benefits could be suspended or terminated if your earnings exceed the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level. In 2022, the monthly SGA level is $1350, and in 2023 it will be $1470.

There isn't enough information in your question for me to be able to advise you, but before deciding to switch from SSDI benefits to retirement benefits you should try to discuss your options with a Social Security claims representative or technical expert. If you do decide to go ahead with applying for retirement benefits, you'll need to call or visit a Social Security office. The earliest you could apply for retirement benefits is 4 months prior to the first month that you'll be age 62 for a full month.

Best, Jerry

Nov 30 2022 - 2:47pm
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