§ 163. Old-Age Benefits - Relationship to Prior or Subsequent Benefits Received by Worker


Old-age insurance (retirement) benefits are primary benefits; they rest on the claimant's own earnings record rather than the earnings record of another. When a person entitled to old-age insurance benefits is also eligible for a family benefit, as a spouse, say, that auxiliary benefit is reduced by the amount of the primary benefit. If the auxiliary benefit is larger than the primary, the total amount received by the individual will be that larger amount but the total will be made up of the full primary benefit plus a reduced auxiliary benefit.

Because of this interplay, if a person below his or her "full retirement age" is simultaneously eligible for a reduced spouse benefit, based on the earnings record of a retired or disabled worker, and also a reduced old-age insurance benefit, the individual cannot put off applying for the primary benefits. Application for one is deemed an application for the other. (This is not the case, however, with surviving spouse benefits and old-age insurance benefits.)

Prior receipt of disability benefits, the other form of primary benefits, has no direct effect on the amount of old-age insurance benefits. The disability will, however, result in the period of disability being dropped from the "primary insurance amount" calculation. (This prevents any ultimate old-age benefits from being dragged down by the years of no or low earnings.) If the person continues to receive disability benefits up through the month before he or she reaches the "full retirement age" defined by the Social Security Act (which is between 65 and 67 depending on year of birth), those benefits convert to old-age or retirement benefits at that point without any need to file an application.

When a person is entitled to both an old-age insurance and a disability benefit, he or she can receive only one.

Rev. 11/05

  • Related Sections:
    • Part 1
      § 160. Old-Age Benefits - In General
      § 161. Old-Age Benefits - Entitlement
      § 162. Old-Age Benefits - Amount
      § 164. Old-Age Benefits - Benefits for Others That Are Linked To
      § 170. Disability Benefits - In General
      § 190. How Disability Affects Non-Disability Benefits