Social Security's Earliest Eligibility Age

Research Report

Social Security's Earliest Eligibility Age


Bipartisan proposals to reform Social Security frequently include a provision to raise the Full Retirement Age (FRA). Policymakers supporting an increase in the FRA must also address what to do about the Earliest Eligibility Age (EEA), which is currently 62. Some proposals leave the EEA at age 62 and reduce benefits for those who claim benefits at this age. Other proposals increase the EEA in tandem with the FRA, delaying the age beneficiaries can begin receiving benefits. In addition, many proposals to raise the FRA also include hardship provisions for at risk workers. In this paper, we analyze existing proposals to protect vulnerable older workers, who need to retire at or near 62. We find that many retirement eligibility proposals address parts of the problem but fail to assist significant groups of vulnerable workers. We conclude that disability eligibility options may hold more promise and evaluate two specific changes to the Social Security Disability Insurance eligibility criteria that could protect older workers who are unable to work past 62.

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