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Making Sense of Your
"Date Last Insured"

An applicant’s date last insured plays an important role in determining eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. During their working years, employed individuals pay FICA taxes that in-turn give them coverage for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration. In the event a worker suffers any disabling injuries or illnesses that keep them out of work for extended periods of time or permanently, such individuals may apply for disability benefits, which include monetary monthly payments. Like private insurance policies, they terminate when customers stop paying their premiums, however, people’s SSDI eligibility ends within a certain time AFTER they stop working (typically a few years). The date on which an applicant’s eligibility for disability benefits ends is his or her date last insured.  Still confused? Continue to read below....

Calculating Your Date Last Insured

The SSA calculates the date last insured for applicants based on the date they stop working and the number of work credits they have. To estimate their date last insured for themselves, applicants may count back 20 quarters from when they last worked and then count forward 40 quarters from that date. The date they land upon is their estimated date last insured; however, they will receive official notice of the date their benefit eligibility ends from Social Security.

Earning Enough Work Credits

Applicants for SSDI must have worked recently enough and long enough to qualify for benefits. Based on their total wages or self-employment income, workers may earn up to four credits for coverage each year. The amount needed to earn a work credit changes each year. For 2020, earning $1,410 in wages will garner workers one coverage credit. After earning $5,640, they max out their work credits for the year 2020 at four.

The number of coverage credits people need to qualify for SSDI depends on several factors, including applicants’ ages when they become disabled. With few exceptions, however, most applicants must have a total of 40 work credits to receive SSDI benefits. Of those 40 total work credits, they must have earned 20 within the 10 years before they suffered disability and had to stop working.

Establishing the Disability Onset Date

To determine applicants’ established onset date, Social Security seeks to identify when claimants first met the medical and non-medical requirements to qualify for disability. When applying for SSDI benefits, applicants must provide the date on which they became disabled. Based on a review of their submitted medical evidence, the SSA decides whether it agrees with the alleged onset date as the correct date for the onset of applicants’ disabilities. The dates Social Security determines as the onset dates for applicants’ conditions is called the established onset date. For some, the SSA may determine the established onset dates fall on the same day as their alleged onset dates. In other cases, Social Security may determine the established onset dates to be before or after the dates that applicants claim to have suffered a disability. For instance, the SSA may establish a later onset date for applicants who return to work for a period after suffering a disability and applying for benefits.

In relation to the date last insured, the established onset date may significantly affect applicants’ eligibility for SSDI benefits. Should the SSA give applicants an established onset date after their dates last insured, their eligibility may have terminated and, as a result, they may not qualify for the benefits they need.

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits and the Date Last Insured

In addition to their medical conditions and resulting impairments, Social Security also examines, the dates applicants last worked, their work histories and the date of onset for their conditions in making benefit determinations. Applicants may only receive benefits if their disabilities began prior to their dates last insured. For example, an applicant has earned enough work credits to qualify for disability but has not worked in the time between January of 2014 and January of 2019, the date last insured, due to impairments caused by a car accident that occurred in January of 2014. Whether the applicant sought benefits before or after January of 2019, he or she may qualify since the disability occurred prior to the date last insured.

Even if their conditions qualify them for benefits, applicants outside the window of insurance coverage based on their work credits and dates last worked may not receive SSDI. For instance, an applicant gets laid off in December of 2013. Based on work credits, the SSA notifies the applicant that his or her date last insured falls on December 31, 2018. The applicant goes back to work in November of 2018 but suffers a disabling illness on January 1, 2019. In the time the applicant was back at work, he or she did not yet earn enough work credits to extend the date last insured, and therefore, may have his or her disability claim denied.

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