The Baby Boomer Effect on Social Security Disability (2022 Update)

Disability Benefits

Who Is a Baby Boomer?

“Baby boomers” qualify as those born between 1946 and 1964. About 76.4 million babies were born during this time period, accounting for nearly 40% of the U.S. population. Most of the baby boomer generation spent the majority of their lives paying into Social Security, and many now draw benefits off that investment.

Why A Baby Boomer Might Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

As of 2022, aging baby boomers are between 58 and 77 years old. And with every passing year, aging’s effects begin to manifest in a massive portion of the population. Physical disabilities set in, mental disabilities take hold, and poor economic performance robs many Americans of the jobs they once held at a time when finding new employment — with adequate benefits — is nearly impossible. Any baby boomer whose health stops them from working before reaching full retirement age can apply for Social Security disability benefits. This program can provide them with financial support in order to make ends meet.

How Baby Boomer Applicants Affect Everyone’s Benefits

The number of disabled baby boomers in the workforce led to a surplus in SSD applications, creating a backlog of claims. This, combined with the SSA’s strict guidelines, is causing many applicants to experience longer wait times and additional application delays. In spring 2022, the average disability claim-processing time nationwide is 307 days.

Though the system is flooded with baby boomer applications, those with dire needs claims (such as a compassionate allowance condition) can still get their applications on the fast-track to approval. Claims that qualify for expediting may receive approval and initial payments in as little as two weeks.

Why Applying for Early Social Security Retirement Is a Mistake

If you’re a baby boomer who cannot keep working for health reasons, you have a choice once you turn 62 years old. Should you apply for early retirement benefits, or Social Security disability? If your health plays any role in limiting your ability to work, you’re better off applying for SSD benefits. Here are some key reasons why:

  1. Social Security reduces your early retirement benefits by up to 30% if you apply near your 62nd birthday. These benefit reductions stay in place for life, so your payments won’t increase once you reach full retirement age.
  2. Social Security disability payments are the maximum amount you qualify for at full retirement age, without any reductions. In other words, SSD could pay you 30% more per month in benefits than early retirement from Social Security.
  3. Once you apply for early retirement, you cannot qualify for those much-higher monthly Social Security disability payments. That’s because the SSA will only pay one monthly benefit to each person based on their SSN and work history. So, if you apply and start receiving your much-smaller early retirement, you’re stuck with those payments for life.
  4. If the SSA denies your application for Social Security disability, then you can still qualify for early retirement benefits. Why not apply for SSD benefits first and try to secure a much-higher monthly payment to make ends meet? Think of early retirement as a “fallback option” in case your SSD claim doesn’t work out.
  5. Your SSD benefits, if approved, automatically convert into regular Social Security retirement payments on your 66th birthday. You won’t have to apply for anything or submit additional paperwork to make the switch between these monthly benefits. You’ll simply get the same monthly payment direct-deposited into your bank account, and for the same (maximum) amount!

Getting Through The Backlog

Unfortunately, there are no backdoors to faster claim approval. However, there is a way to increase your odds of first-time approval after you apply for benefits. (Warning: The average first-time applicant approval rate without legal assistance is only 20%.)

A Social Security attorney can make sure your initial benefits application meets all requirements. An attorney or advocate understands the process as well as how long it should typically take to receive payments. A lawyer can help you collect proper documentation, contact the SSA on your behalf, and represent your appeal, if needed. In addition, filing your claim through a lawyer makes you nearly 3x more likely to win Social Security disability benefits. Those who qualify for legal assistance through this website typically receive $12,000 in lump-sum backpay as well as monthly SSD. People who apply without legal assistance will likely wait 18-24 months before their first check arrives, if approved.

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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity,, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.