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  • Writer's pictureChris Stein, CFP®

Transitioning from Disability to Full Retirement Age

This week we have a question from someone curious about the timing of the transition from Social Security Disability to Full Retirement Age (FRA) benefits.

“My Social Security Disability will be converting over to FRA, and I would like to know if I have a wait time before it turns into FRA.”

From Disability to Full Retirement Age

If you’re collecting disability, when you reach Full Retirement Age, your disability benefit will cease, and Social Security will begin paying you your retirement benefit. Here is the logic: the system is designed so that disability payments are paid to you because you were forced to retire early as the result of a disability. You couldn’t work to your FRA, so Social Security pays your full retirement benefit even though you might be 35 or 45 or 55 years old. But once you do get to your FRA, you will have earned a retirement benefit, so there is no reason for them to pay you disability anymore. They start paying you out of the retirement benefit bucket instead. The system is more complicated than that, but that’s basically how it works.

It Should be Seamless

You are asking how long the wait time will be when that happens. My understanding – and I haven’t heard anything to the contrary – is that it’s seamless. One month you’ll get your last disability payment. Then the next month, you’ll start getting your retirement benefit payment, which should be nearly the identical amount. And, since both are paid on the same schedule (either that second, third, or fourth Wednesday of the month, based on your day of birth), there should be no noticeable interruption if things are working correctly.

For people who are reliant upon disability payments, imagine the hardship they’d be put through if Social Security shut off disability benefits, and there was a 2-month waiting period before their retirement benefits started showing up. Luckily, there should be no delay or wait time.

The source of your payments will convert automatically. Since Social Security is electronically depositing both these payments into your bank account or onto your debit card – two of the options you have for receiving the benefits – you probably won’t even notice a difference. All you might see is a small change in the dollar amount in those two payments. For some strange reason, your disability benefit is often just a few dollars different than your Full Retirement Age benefit.

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