I’ve Worked All My Life. Why Aren’t I Eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Not everyone is eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Only those who have worked and paid FICA taxes within five of the past 10 years and meet the government’s disability requirements.

Here is a simplified explanation of what you need to know if you’re thinking of applying for Social Security Disability benefits.

SSDI is Insurance for Disabled Workers

Social Security Disability Insurance is just what its name implies. Insurance.

When you work, a portion of each paycheck goes into a federal insurance fund (FICA, which stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act). This is a fund for SSDI. Just like medical insurance or car insurance, you hope you never have to use your SSDI. But if you’ve paid into it (which you are required to if you receive a paycheck) you will be covered for benefits if you become disabled and the Social Security Administration determines that you are unable to work.

Spotty Work History?

What if you were working but you stopped temporarily to raise your children through elementary school? Or what if you were laid off and subsequently unable to find a suitable job for several years? What if you’ve been out of work due to a work injury?

Whether you may get SSDI depends largely on the date you last worked.

The government considers this very important date as the last date you would potentially be eligible for SSDI. To determine whether you may be eligible you must pass a “recent work” test. There is only one question on this test, so you either pass or fail.

Have you worked five of the past 10 years (or in government jargon, 20 of the last 40 quarters?

If you become disabled after your date last insured (DLI) has passed, you cannot get SSDI benefits. It would be similar to getting in a car accident after you stopped paying for car insurance.

Here is an example of DLI. If you worked up until five years ago today, your DLI would be today’s date. If you worked up until two years ago, your DLI would be three years from now. If you haven’t worked for six years, your DLI passed one year ago and you are no longer eligible for SSDI unless you are found disabled before your DLI.

Show Me the Money

Occasionally we have seen instances in which someone assumed they were not eligible for SSDI. Yet upon closer inspection and reviewing their work and payment history, we discovered that a client’s employer failed to pay the employer and employee taxes and sought to correct the error. (Of course, payment is subject to IRS provisions on the ability to amend tax returns or file late.) While this doesn’t happen often, it serves as a reminder of how we have been able to help people uncover benefits they did not know were available to them.1

What if You Do Not Qualify for SSDI?

If you do not qualify for SSDI, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income or SSI benefits, provided you meet the extremely low income and asset requirements threshold.

SSI is for people who have never worked or haven’t worked enough to qualify for SSDI. You can only get SSI if your income and assets are extremely low.

For 2017, the federal benefit rate is $735 per month for individuals and $1,103 for couples (and this is subject to reductions). Some states supplement the federal amount. North Carolina is not one of them.

Think You Can’t Afford a Social Security Disability Lawyer?

Think again. Uncle Sam limits the contingency fees for all Social Security Disability lawyers to 25% of back-due benefits or $6,000, whichever is less.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation From N.C. Social Security Disability Lawyers

We know applying for Social Security Disability can be a confusing and lengthy process. (It can take nearly two years in N.C. just to get a judge to hear your case – 23 months in Charlotte, 22 in Greensboro, 20 months in Fayetteville, and 19 in Raleigh.)

We understand from firsthand experience what you are up against.

Nearly every person on our Social Security Disability team has worked inside the Social Security Administration.

We know how the system works, what they look for to accept a claim, the importance of filing the correct forms and meeting strict deadlines, and what medical records to present. And sometimes we know where to look for benefits you may not be aware of.

If you are considering applying for Social Security Disability, contact us as soon as possible or call 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation about your unique situation. We’re available 24/7.