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Old injury can I get SSDI disability benefits now?

Recently on our disability forum we had a claimant ask if they were disabled years ago would this hurt their chances of getting disability benefits now. Because the applicant did not specifically mention whether or not they were disabled and kept working, only to find that they are no longer to work, or whether they were disabled and stopped working, we will evaluate both situations.

Claimants who were Injured years ago but kept working

If you were injured years ago but you continued to work, assuming you kept paying employment taxes, you were earning work credits. If you now find that your condition has become too severe to work, for instance, you had a work injury and your back was injured and now after many years of heavy lifting you are completely debilitated, you may no longer have the capacity to work and you may have to quit your job.

The SSA will not care that your initial injury occurred years ago. In fact, they won’t even care how you were injured. What they will evaluate is whether or not your condition is now so severe you cannot work or perform what they call substantial gainful activity and whether your condition will last for at least 12 continuous months.

If you applied for SSDI benefits (Social Security Disability Insurance benefits) the SSA will also care if you have enough work credits to be insured. If you do not, you will be automatically denied SSDI disability benefits and you will have to apply for Supplemental Security Income or SSI, a disability benefits program which does not require a work history or payment of employment taxes.

Claimants who were injured years ago but QUIT working

If you were injured years ago and you quit working or you started working part-time the issues are a bit different. While you may now have a condition which is so severe that you could not return to full-time employment, if you stopped working years ago you may no longer have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits.

What does this mean? SSDI is like an insurance program. While you were working and paying taxes or “premiums” you were considered insured. But unlike SSA retirement which is basically considered an “entitlement program” (although that is debatable) if you quit paying SSDI premiums, meaning you stop paying taxes and contributing into the SSA system, at some point you are no longer considered insured and will not qualify for SSDI disability benefits.

This fact really befuddles some workers, especially those who worked for 20 or 30 years and assumed that they would always be eligible for SSDI disability benefits.

What does this mean for workers? It means that if you are severely disabled and unable to work you need to review what the SSA calls your DLI or date last insured and make sure you understand how long you have to apply for SSDI benefits. Some claimants can still win benefits if they are past their DLI but they will have to prove their disability date was before their DLI date and they have not worked at a substantial level since their disability date. This can take some great medical evidence and you may need legal assistance to sort this all out.