Oct 24, 2012


     Harry Gross, the Personal Finance Columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, received a question from a reader who asks if it is ethical for his wife to take an early retirement buyout from her employer after being approved for Social Security disability benefits. Gross' response:
That's a tough one. You have an ethical as well as a financial dilemma. There are several choices. You could repay S.S. for the money she received and withdraw the disability request. She would then request the benefit in a new application after she took the buyout. She could keep the S.S. money and accept the buyout. This carries the financial risk of being discovered by either S.S. or her employer, and is an ethical lapse. She could forget the buyout with no repercussions. It is obvious to me that she cannot ethically accept both amounts. The buyout seems to be very substantial, so that leaves us with returning the S.S. money, taking the buyout, and reapplying for the disability at some later date. Good luck!
     No, Mr. Gross, this isn't a tough one. You should have called someone at Social Security before answering this question. Taking the buyout as well as Social Security disability benefits is perfectly legal. Some things that are perfectly legal are unethical but this doesn't seem like one to me. I don't think it's even close.


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Past Tense said...

What Mr. Gross misses is the simple fact that many people who are disabled do indeed work. As a general rule, they don't qualify for benefits while working at the SGA level or above, but working and being disabled are not incompatible at all. Once the work stops (retirement buyout or whatever other reason), the benefits should commence. What's odd here is that it appears that she was awarded benefits while still working. Probably a story not well told.