A reader wrote in with this question: “Can I withdraw all the money I put into Social Security? Asking this now because I’m very sick and had to quit the postal service at 53.”
There’s a short answer to this, which is: no, you cannot withdraw money that you’ve paid into Social Security. Though one of the most common misconceptions about Social Security, your money doesn’t go into a savings or retirement account. Instead, it’s basically an insurance payment. And just like other forms of insurance, you don’t get your money back solely because you haven’t filed a claim.
But there’s a more important, slightly more complicated answer to this question. In fact, this reader isn’t out of options just because it’s impossible to withdraw money from Social Security. Not only might they qualify for much-needed benefits, but they could also be eligible for Medicare. Both of these programs can make a huge difference for someone who is disabled and struggling financially.
What Can I Do If I’m Broke but Can’t Withdraw Money from Social Security?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two programs that help individuals who are too sick to work. One is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI pays benefits to people who cannot work due to health problems lasting at least one year or until death. There are specific qualifications for SSDI, most importantly that you meet the SSA’s definition of “disability.”
Another program administered by the SSA is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). It provides blind, disabled, and aged people with little to no income some cash to pay for food, housing, and clothing. And the SSA doesn’t withdraw money from the Social Security trust fund to cover SSI benefits for people with disabilities. Instead, SSI payments come out of the federal government’s general tax fund.
While the reader asking this question can’t withdraw funds from Social Security, he could potentially qualify for SSDI. Most people refer to SSDI payments simply as “disability benefits.”
What Are the Advantages of Qualifying for SSDI?
For this reader, qualifying for SSDI would provide his full retirement benefit before he’s old enough to receive it. This is true if the reader meets the SSA’s two requirements:
- He worked recently and enough years in jobs where he paid Social Security payroll taxes, and
- His health problem(s) are serious enough to meet the SSA’s strict definition of “disability.”
It’s true that qualifying for SSDI can leave you better off financially than you would be applying for early retirement benefits. The average SSDI monthly payment in 2023 is $1,483. But because the SSA calculates benefit amounts based on your lifetime earnings, the amount varies.
Also, nobody should worry about applying for SSDI before you’re old enough to draw early retirement. That’s because the SSA doesn’t withdraw money from your retirement benefits to cover SSDI payments. Rather, the insurance policy that this reader paid into all those years makes those payments. This reader, at age 53, is about the same age as the average SSDI recipient. (That said, it is possible to be too old to apply or qualify for SSDI.)
How Can You Afford Healthcare If You Can’t Withdraw Money from Social Security?
Want another good reason to apply for SSDI when your health forces you to stop working? SSDI approval can also provide access to Medicare long before usual eligibility begins on your 65th birthday. This means that medical care will be more accessible and covered, either free of charge (Medicare Part A) or at minimal cost (Medicare Part B) to you.
There are two ways to qualify for Medicare if you receive SSDI. The first way is automatic, but only applies to a small group of disability recipients. If person suffers from Amyotrophic Lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) or end-stage renal disease (ESRD), then the SSA automatically starts your Medicare benefits with your SSDI payments.
The second way to qualify for Medicare coverage as an SSDI beneficiary is to simply wait for two years. Once you draw SSDI benefits for 24 months, you may enroll in Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. That coverage starts the 25th month after your SSDI benefits. Further, you should automatically receive those insurance cards via USPS.
Can an Attorney Help Me If I Am Sick and Broke?
You don’t need to borrow or withdraw money to pay for a lawyer who can help you apply for disability. That’s because experienced network of Social Security attorneys provide contingency-based legal help. This means they they can help you even if you have no money at all to pay for their services. In fact, if you don’t receive benefits, then the attorney charges $0 for helping you. Not only can they answer all your questions, but an attorney’s help can triple your chances of receiving disability benefits within six months of your initial claim.
Most people who qualify for legal help through our website get at least $13,000 in lump-sum backpay as well as monthly benefits. Applying on your own without an attorney means you’ll typically wait at least 2 years for claim approval.
Want free claim help by phone from a local expert near you? Then click the button below to sign up for your free, no-obligation phone call today:
Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.