February 13, 2016

Is there a time limit to apply for Social Security disability?

I am 59 years old and I retired in Aug 2003 and now I find that I have a lot of medical problems that I think would not allow me to hold down a job . My question is : Is there a time limit to apply for Social Security Disability benefits? –Darlene

Jonathan Ginsberg responds: Excellent question, Darlene. Although legally and theoretically, there is no time limit, for practical purposes, the answer is “yes.” When you stop working, you stop paying Social Security taxes through your payroll.  You are no longer earning Social Security earnings credits.

For someone your age, in order to be insured, you will need 20 credits posted within the 10 year period prior to your disability onset. If your inability to work began in March, 2006, the ten year period would run March, 1996-March, 2006. Since Social Security disability looks at the last ten years, you will not have enough credits to qualify at some point in 2008.

ou can read more about credits and how they work on the special page I have posted about credits on this blog (look to your right under “pages.”) In theory one can apply for benefits twenty years after onset and still be qualified if the claimant can prove that the disability began twenty years ago.

I can tell you from experience that it is far easier to prove disability with current medical records than to try to go back in time five, ten or more years. So, bottom line – apply sooner rather than later. Also note that the process can take up to three years so there is no time like the present to start.

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Jonathan Ginsberg represents Social Security disability claimants in Georgia. In practice for over 29 years, Jonathan publishes a widely known disability blog, a podcast and several disability web sites. In 2004, Jonathan published a "how to" book about Social Security disability called the Disability Answer Guide. Jonathan lives with his wife and 2 children in Atlanta.