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Sugar Daddies and Social Security Q: My 36-year-old niece is about to make a huge mistake. She is going to marry a 70-year-old man. (This is her third marriage and his second.) And she is marrying this sugar daddy for only one reason. He's rich. And she can't wait to get her hands …Read more. Maximizing Strategies Make Social Security Complex Well, maybe I should just stop writing about the hundreds of various Social Security issues I've been dealing with for 40 years now and just focus this column on one thing only: maximizing your Social Security retirement benefits. The amount of …Read more. Mothers and Widows and Social Security Choices After working for the Social Security Administration for more than 30 years, and writing a nationally syndicated Social Security question and answer column for 17 years (that's almost 900 columns), you would think there hasn't been a single Social …Read more. Social Security COLA News You Might Have Missed Because I write a weekly column and because it usually takes one or two weeks to compose, edit and get it distributed to newspapers around the country, it's almost impossible for me to give my readers any real "news" about Social Security. And this …Read more.
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Clearing Up Misunderstandings About Disability Benefits


Q: I have been getting disability since I was 56 years old. I am now 61. I'd like to switch over to real Social Security when I turn 62 so that I can start working. How do I do that?

A: Your question reveals several misunderstandings about the Social Security disability program.

First, you are already getting "real Social Security." Disability benefits from Social Security are just as "real" as retirement benefits from Social Security. To qualify for both programs, you have to work and pay taxes. And your benefit from both programs is based on your earnings. In a nutshell, the more you pay into the system, the higher your monthly checks will be — whether they be disability or retirement benefits.

Second, at age 66, you will be automatically converted from the disability program to the retirement program. But your benefit amount will remain the same because a disability benefit equals your age-66 retirement rate. The changeover is strictly a bookkeeping move on the part of the Social Security Administration. After age 66, the money to fund your monthly checks will come out of the retirement trust fund rather than the disability trust fund.

Third, your eagerness to work reveals a potentially troubling issue. Disability benefits are supposed to be paid to people who are unable to work. The fact that you seem ready and willing to work might mean you are no longer eligible for monthly checks from the disability program. Having said that, there are work incentives built into the system that allow disabled folks to try working while continuing to receive disability benefits — for about a year. You need to talk to someone at your local Social Security office about this.

Q: I am 62 years old. I have been getting disability benefits for the last four years. Can I now go on Social Security retirement and suspend my benefits until age 70 so that I can get the bonus everyone is talking about?

A: Just so my other readers know, the "bonus everyone is talking about" refers to a delayed retirement credit of two-thirds of one percent that is added to retirement benefits for each month you delay starting your Social Security after age 66. (That comes out to a 32 percent bonus added to the checks of folks who delay benefits until the maximum age of 70.)

As explained in the prior answer, when you reach age 66, you will be automatically switched to the retirement program. And at that point, you could suspend your benefits — all the way to age 70 if you want — to get the aforementioned bonus.

But I must ask: Why in the world would you want to do that? I think it's even questionable when a healthy retiree waits until age 70 to start his or her Social Security.

The fact that you are getting disability benefits implies you are not healthy. You'd have to live into your mid 80s to beat the system on this little gambit. So if you want to give up four years worth of benefits, hoping against hope you will live long enough to come out ahead of the game, then go for it!

Q: I am 62. I just started getting my Social Security. I have wife, age 58, who is disabled. She has never worked, so she will be relying on my Social Security. A knowledgeable friend told me that a woman can get spousal benefits as early as the age of 50 — as long as she is disabled. But the Social Security people told me I have to wait until she is 62. Who's right?

A: Your "knowledgeable" friend isn't. The Social Security people are right. There are no benefits for disabled wives (or husbands) payable before retirement age. So your wife will have to wait until she is 62 years old to collect spousal benefits on your account.

There are, however, disability benefits for disabled widows (and widowers) that are payable as early as age 50. But I don't think you want your wife to be getting widow's benefits — at least not yet!

Q: I turned 62 three months ago. I had to retire recently due to some ongoing medical problems so I am planning to file for my retirement benefits now. My financial planner told me I should file for disability benefits instead of retirement benefits. But I've heard it takes at least two years to get Social Security disability and I don't want to wait that long. What should I do?

A: You should file for both retirement and disability benefits. That is a very common practice for folks in your situation. The Social Security Administration will be able to process your retirement claim in a matter of weeks and your reduced retirement benefits will start flowing into your bank account almost right away.

Meanwhile, SSA will keep working on your disability claim. That will probably take about 3 months (not the two years that the word on the street would have you believe). If they decide that you are disabled, you will simply be switched from reduced retirement benefits to full disability benefits. If your claim is denied, you will keep getting retirement checks while you figure out if you want to appeal the rejection of your disability claim.

If you have a Social Security question, Tom Margenau has the answer. Contact him at To find out more about Tom Margenau and to read past columns and see features from other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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