If you have made the difficult decision to file for disability because you no longer have the capacity to work even a simple, entry-level job, you need to start the process by filing a disability application with Social Security.
When you call the toll free number or apply online, SSA will ask you if you want to file for Title II disability (SSDI), Title XVI Supplemental Security Income, or both.
I generally advise my clients to file for both. If it turns out that you own assets, or have household income over the SSI limits, Social Security will determine that you are not eligible for SSI and you can proceed with your SSDI case.
Generally speaking, SSDI is a more robust program in that your monthly benefit will likely be higher, you won’t have to worry about assets you own or household income disqualifying you and you will eventually be eligible for Medicare (as opposed to Medicaid, which is associated with SSI).
In order to qualify for SSDI, however, you have to be insured for these benefits. SSDI is, in fact, an insurance program – the premiums you pay arise from the payroll taxes you have contributed over the years.
Like any other type of insurance premium, your coverage will lapse when the premiums are not paid. In the case of SSDI, your coverage will lapse approximately 5 years after you stop working full time.
You Need to Discover Your Date Last Insured
The exact calculations are beyond the scope of this article but one very important bit of information you need to know when you file is your “date last insured” for SSDI. Again, most of the time your DLI will extend about 5 years after you stop working full time, but it could be sooner if your work history was not consistent.
Don’t be confused by Social Security retirement coverage, which looks back on your entire work history. SSDI only looks at the prior ten years. So, if you worked for 20 years from 1990 through 2010, your DLI would likely be some date in 2015. If you become disabled in 2016 or 2017 you would not be covered.
I advise my clients to call SSA at 800-772-1213 and ask the clerk to provide them their date last insured. You need to know this date because when you apply you need to make sure that your alleged onset date is before your DLI.
I can also tell you that SSA personnel sometimes give out incorrect information. Recently, for example I spoke to a potential client who told me that the intake clerk answering a phone disability application told her that she could not apply for SSDI because she was not insured.
I had her call SSA back to ask for her date last insured and they told her it was December 31, 2039. For many reasons that cannot be accurate so I had her call back and she was told that her DLI was September 30, 2018, which does make sense.
The original clerk, however, was wrong in telling her that she could not apply for SSDI. As long as her alleged onset date was prior to September 30, 2018, she most certainly can. The clerk was apparently not aware that a disability applicant can allege an onset date months or years in the past.
The point here is that you cannot assume that Social Security’s intake clerks will give you accurate information. I advise my clients to create a MySocialSecurity account and look for the DLI there. I also advise them to call the 800 number at least twice to speak to two different intake clerks to confirm the accuracy of the DLI information given. And I advise potential clients to always allege an onset date prior to the DLI and to stand firm if an SSA intake clerk questions your right to file for SSDI if the DLI has already passed.
In the case of my potential client, she emailed me to inquire, which is a smart move on her part and now she will be able to proceed with an SSDI application using a pre-DLI onset date.