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I have not worked in several years. Can I still get SSDI disability benefits?

This is a common question on our forum. Many claimants work for many years and accrue work credits but they become disabled with a severe health condition and at some point they are either fired from their job or they decide they are unable to work.

Unfortunately, many claimants do not realize that just because you have sufficient work credits when you quit work that there is a date in the future, called your date last insured, that is the last date you will be eligible for SSDI benefits.

There was a claimant a few weeks back that had worked for 30 years but he stopped working for a number of years and had been denied SSDI benefits because he had applied after his date last insured.

This happens all the time and is very confusing to claimants because they are thinking of SSDI benefits more like SSA retirement instead of like an “insurance policy.”

Let me explain it this way. If you had a car that was insured and you were paying monthly premiums and then you stopped paying these premiums, there would be a date in the future that the car would no longer be insured, and if you were in a wreck, the insurance company would refuse to cover the cost of the wreck.

SSDI is like an insurance policy. As you work and pay taxes or your “premiums” you are insured. If you stop working and stop paying your taxes or “premiums” you will not be insured indefinitely.

What do I do if I am not insured and do not qualify for SSDI?

If your date last insured has passed, you have several options. You can return to work and attempt to earn enough work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits or you can use your medical records to prove that your disabling health condition started prior to your date last insured.

If you cannot prove you became disabled and unable to work at a substantial level prior to your DLI, you may also be able to apply for Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI).

Supplemental Security Income payments are monthly benefits paid to the aged, blind or disabled. You do not have to have earned work credits or have paid employment taxes to qualify. Unfortunately, SSI benefit payments are generally much lower than SSDI payments and you will have to have VERY limited resources to qualify.

The bottom line is that if you have become disabled and you are no longer able to work at a substantial level you should apply for SSDI benefits as soon as possible. It is likely that at some point you will either not have enough work credits within the last 10 years to qualify or your DLI will have passed.

How do you know your date last insured? You will have to contact the Social Security Administration, and if you have questions, a disability lawyer can help. Contact a disability lawyer to review your disability options.