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Is There an Age Limit for Social Security Disability?

A senior preparing a Social Security benefit claim.

You can apply to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits if you have worked and paid Social Security taxes, are at least age 18 and haven’t reached full retirement age, which depending on your birth year is 66 or 67. Once you reach full retirement age, you can’t apply for or receive SSDI payments. You can instead apply for Social Security retirement benefits. If you’re already getting SSDI payments and reach full retirement age, you’ll keep getting benefits but they will be retirement benefits instead of disability benefits.

A financial advisor can help you create a retirement plan for your specific goals and needs.

Social Security Disability Age Requirements

Workers who have become disabled can receive payments from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This is a federal program, part of the Social Security Administration, that provides financial benefits for people who have worked and paid Social Security taxes on their wages but are no longer able to work due to illness or injury. Dependents of disabled workers may also be able to get benefits.

In order to receive benefits, workers must have worked and paid Social Security taxes on their earnings, also be determined to be unable to continue working due to a medical condition. The average benefit as of January 2024, according to the Social Security Administration, was $1,711.40.

SSDI also has age restrictions. To receive the benefits, you must be at least age 18 and no older than your full retirement age. Full retirement age is between 66 and 67, depending on the year you were born.

You can still apply for and get SSDI benefits as long as you have not reached full retirement age. If you are of full retirement age, you can apply for and receive retirement benefits.

The retirement benefits will be the same monthly dollar amount as the SSDI benefit. There’s one difference, however. If you’re getting retirement benefits, and your health improves and you are no longer disabled and unable to work, your benefits won’t stop. To receive SSDI, you have to be unable to work.

Other Requirements and Exceptions

In addition to the age requirement, you must have a work history to receive SSDI. The number of years that you need to have worked varies according to your age, with younger applications typically needing fewer years to meet the criteria.

You also must have been injured or developed a medical condition that makes you unable to work. The condition must be expected to last at least 12 months or to end in your death.

You’ll have to convince a Social Security examiner that you can’t do the kind of work you have been doing in the past as well as adapting to do a different sort of work. SSDI is for people who are permanently and fully disabled. It doesn’t pay for temporary or partial disabilities.

The Social Security Administration maintains a list of medical conditions that typically qualify applicants to be approved to receive disability payments. Having one of these doesn’t necessarily guarantee your application will be approved, or that you won’t be approved if you are suffering from something else. The qualifying process can be lengthy and involved and the outcome isn’t always predictable.

If you don’t qualify for SSDI, you may still qualify to receive payments under another Social Security program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In fact, if you are 65 and have limited financial means, including low income and few assets, you may be able to qualify automatically for SSI (Supplemental Security Income) without having to prove that you’re disabled.

Bottom Line

A couple researching eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits.

You can apply for and receive SSDI payments from the time you turn 18 until you have reached full retirement age of 66 of 67 years old, as long as you have become unable to work due to illness or injury. After that, you can’t receive SSDI any longer, but you can still qualify for Social Security retirement payments based on age rather than ability to work. To receive retirement or disability benefits from either of these programs, you must have a work history and paid Social Security taxes on earnings.

Tips for Retirement Planning

  • A financial advisor can help you create or adjust a retirement plan for your goals and needs. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Knowing how much you are likely to receive in Social Security retirement benefits is a key part of planning your retirement. SmartAsset’s Social Security calculator estimates your annual benefit based on your income, birth year and how old you will be when you start getting benefits.

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