In order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you must have enough work credits during a particular period of time in order to have “insured” status. In general, you must have worked five of the last 10 years in order to have “insured” status. Insured status will usually last for five years after you stop working. You must prove disability before the date that your insured status runs out. This date is called your “date last insured (DLI).
Social Security Disability Insurance is very much like a private insurance disability policy or even an automobile or homeowners insurance policy. Let’s use the example of an automobile insurance policy. If an individual wants auto insurance, they have to pay a large up-front premium to the insurance company. If they pay that premium, they have insurance. But, if they stop paying their premiums, after a while–not right away, the insurance company will cancel their policy. If an individual has an accident after the policy has been canceled, they are not covered. However, if they have the accident before the policy is canceled, even if they make a claim against their insurance, say a year later, so long as the accident happened before their insurance was canceled, they are covered.
The moment an individual stops working, Social Security will give the individual five years to prove disability. This five year window is shorter if the individual continued to work but stopped paying into the Social Security system through FICA taxes.
For example, if an individual paid FICA taxes up until they stopped working on November 3, 2020, their date last insured would be December 31, 2025. This means that when they apply for Social Security Disability Insurance, medical evidence will be considered between November 3, 2020 through December 31, 2025.
If an individual stopped paying FICA taxes, the five year window shrinks. For example, an individual begins working as an Uber driver on January 1, 2017. They are an independent contractor and have not paid FICA taxes since 2016. They continue to work but stop on November 3, 2020 because of bad health. In this example, the date last insured would be December 31, 2021. When the individual applies for Social Security Disability Insurance, medical evidence will be considered between November 3, 2020 through December 31, 2021.
Applying for SSDI After the DLI
If an individual applies for Social Security Disability Insurance after their DLI has gone by, they will need to show that their onset of disability was prior to their DLI. Because many disabilities do not have a singular event that causes them, establishing a disability onset date can be difficult, and medical evidence is required to support that onset date. Often an applicant’s medical record will not contain enough evidence to show that the onset date was a certain number of years ago. But if an individual applied for SSDI at an earlier time, a SSDI lawyer may be able to reopen an old Social Security claim for evidence of an early disability onset date.
For example, an individual stops working in 1992 because they wanted to raise a family. The individual is healthy and is living a good life. Then in 2020 the individual contracts COVID-19. They recover from the virus but suffer permanent lung damage. If the individual goes to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance, they will be denied benefits because their DLI is in the remote past; 1997, five years after they stopped working. Only medical evidence between 1992 through 1997 will be considered.
DLI Doesn’t Apply to SSI
DLI doesn’t apply to Supplemental Security Income. If an individual files a disability claim after their DLI and they can’t establish that their disability onset date was before their DLI, they may still be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. They must have low assets and income. The date last insured does not apply to SSI benefits.