In an earlier blog I explained the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Clients who have worked off and on over the years are often surprised to find out that they are not eligible for SSDI benefits, which are based on where they’ve worked and pain in FICA taxes. Even if you have worked all of your life and then stopped, there’s a limit on how long you’ll have in which to prove that you are disabled so you can draw SSDI benefits.
Years ago a Social Security judge explained it this way to one of my clients. When you buy an insurance policy, you’re covered as long as you continue paying the insurance premiums. Once you stop paying the premiums, your insurance coverage will expire. The same thing is true of Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.
When you’re working FICA taxes are taken out of your check, some of which goes towards paying the premiums for a disability insurance policy that the government has for you. Once you stop working, those premiums are no longer being paid and your disability insurance policy will expire after a certain period of time. If you’ve worked all of your life and then had to stop, your insurance will expire in about five years. If you’ve worked off and on, whether or not you’re insured depends on how much you made and how recently you’ve worked.
To determine whether or not you are insured for SSDI benefits, the easiest way is to contact your local Social Security Administration office. If you have worked in the last one to two years, be sure and let Social Security know this and about how much you have made. This will give them the information they need to determine if you are eligible to apply for SSDI benefits.