Social Security Disability Insurance Work Credits and One’s Date Last Insured

When considering an application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits in Massachusetts and throughout New England, it’s important to understand what the Social Security Administration is referring to when they mention your date last insured as this may directly impact your ability to collect benefits. There are two type of Social Security disability benefits provided for by Federal law: 1) Social Security disability insurance benefits, otherwise known as Title II benefits or SSDI, that one pays for through tax contributions, and Supplement Security Income, otherwise known as Title XVI benefits and 2)  SSI benefits, which are a form of federal welfare benefit based on need.  In order to quality for SSDI benefits, it is necessary to show that you have acquired sufficient quarters of coverage in order to qualify for a benefit and that you remain “insured” at the time you become disabled from working.  Understanding what this term means, is quite important.

Generally speaking, one needs to have acquired sufficient quarters of coverage both over the course of their lifetime, and leading up to becoming disabled, in order to qualify for an SSDI benefit.   The easiest way to understand being “insured” for disability benefits is consider it as similar to whether you would be insured either under your health or auto insurance coverage.   For example, if one pays  monthly health insurance premiums, they remain “insured” for the coverage of their health costs that they incur during the course of time they pay premiums for and remain “insured” for health insurance.   Likewise, as is similarly the case with automobile insurance, one remains covered for damages incurred in the event of an accident so long as they have maintained their premium payments.  In much the same way, the Social Security disability insurance program requires one to pay premiums in the form of payroll tax dollars in order to be “insured” for a benefit.  For the year 2016, one acquires a quarter of coverage for each $1260.00 in Social Security tax earnings and thus, with Social Security taxed earnings of $5040.00 at any point during the year 2016, one would earn 4 quarters of coverage.   Each year, the amount required to earn a quarter of coverage has gone up.   In order to be deemed entitled to SSDI benefits one needs to have earned sufficient quarters to become both “fully insured” and likewise meet the 20/40 test to determine if they remain insured based on sufficiently recent earnings. The fully insured test requires that one acquire at least 1 quarter of coverage for each calendar year after turning 21 years of age up until one of the following events: they turn 62 years of age, become disabled or pass away.   In order to become fully insured, one must also acquire a minimum of  6 quarters of coverage.

The other requirement involves the recent earnings test, or 20/40 quarters of coverage test, which requires that one has earned 20 out of 40 quarters of coverage during the 10 year period (that is, 40 quarter period)  prior to becoming disabled.   This general rules does not apply to younger individuals, that is, those under the age of 31 years of age (as, obviously, there would not have been a 40 quarter period of time): for individuals under the age of 30, the requirement is that one have earned 1/2 the quarters of coverage that one could have earned from the age of 21 up to the age of 31.   Thus, if one is 27 years old when they become disabled from working, they would need to have acquired  an average of 2 quarters for the years leading up to becoming disabled or what would be a total of 12 quarters of coverage during that 6 year period.

The “date last insured” is the term used by the Social Security Administration to signify when your insured status would run out or when your insurance runs out (much like health or auto insurance would run out if one failed to pay a premium).  The date last insured is the exactly what those words mean: the date one is last insured for a disability income benefit.   That is to say, in order to qualify for a benefit under your own Social Security record, you would need to show that you become medically “disabled” as defined by the Social Security regulations prior to the expiration of your date last insured.   Thus, knowing one’s date last insured will allow one to understand whether they remain in fact eligible for an SSDI benefit (and, indeed, whether their family member(s) might likewise qualify for a benefit).

If you’re in Massachusetts, Maine or New Hampshire and you’re wondering based on your earnings history whether you (and likewise your family) might qualify for Social Security disability insurance benefits, contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at 1-800-773-8622 or on line for a no cost evaluation and assessment of your circumstances. We’ll be happy to speak with you.