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Can I collect Social Security retirement and disability benefits at the same time?

No. If you are eligible for more than one kind of benefit, Social Security will pay you whichever is higher.

In most cases, if you're already getting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you're better off sticking with that rather than taking early retirement, which is available starting at age 62.

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Here's why: Regardless of your age when you start collecting SSDI, you receive what you would get if you claimed benefits at full retirement age (FRA) — the age at which you are entitled to 100 percent of the benefit calculated from your average monthly earnings. (FRA is 66 and 6 months for people born in 1957, 66 and 8 months for those born in 1958, and rising two months every year before topping out at 67 for people born in 1960 or later.) 

If you turn 62 in 2024, you’re eligible for only 70 percent of that full retirement benefit, so your SSDI benefit will probably be higher. When you reach FRA, the disability benefit automatically converts to a retirement benefit, and you’ll get the same monthly amount you’ve been getting.

A possible exception arises if, along with SSDI, you are collecting workers’ compensation or are drawing a “public disability benefit” from a government job at which you didn’t pay Social Security taxes. These could shrink your SSDI payment to the point where you might be better off switching to the reduced retirement benefit at 62.

Keep in mind

Your full retirement benefit is based on your average monthly income in your 35 highest-earning years, adjusted for historical wage trends. Since you may have worked fewer than 35 years when you claimed disability benefits, the calculation for SSDI is different: Your full benefit is derived from your adjusted monthly average income from age 21 until the year you became disabled.

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