Thursday, February 12, 2009

How can I get Social Security Disability if I Haven't Worked for a Long Time?

Someone recently brought up the following question (I'm paraphrasing): My dad is 62 and he was turned down by social security for disability benefits. He was turned down because he hasn't worked in several years. How can they deny him his disability when he worked all his life and paid tens of thousands into the system?

This was my response:

With questions like this, everything comes down to the details. Hearing what you've said regarding your father's age and the type of injury he suffered, I can say that "statistically" he probably wouldn't have a problem being approved for social security disability benefits at the initial claim level (a.k.a. the application level). That's simply because, even if a claimant does not qualify for disability benefits on the basis of meeting or equaling the criteria for a physical or mental impairment in the disability evaluation handbook (known as the blue book), he or she will still receive greater consideration for a medical vocational allowance (a type of approval based on age, education, work skills, and current level of restrictions) if they are older than age 55. The rules that govern such decisions are simply more favorable to people in this age group.

However, having said all that, what you seem to be saying is not that your father was denied after a medical decision was made. Instead, you seem to be saying that he wasn't eligible to file for title II social security disability benefits because, though he paid in to the social security system over his working life, he hadn't worked in recent years.

As I said, everything is in the details. It sounds as though his DLI, or date last insured, has lapsed. It basically works like this: if you work and pay in to the system, then you are "insured" for disability benefits under the social security disability program. But--if you stop working, your insured status will lapse at some point. This is what it sounds like has happened.

If your dad's insured status for SSD has lapsed because he hasn't worked in the last four years, then he is not eligible to even apply for social security disability unless his alleged onset date (AOD, when he believes his disability began) is further back than his DLI, when his coverage ended. That's simply the way the program works. It's just like insurance. If you don't work and pay your fica taxes (social security taxes) for a certain amount of time, your coverage for social security disability insurance will lapse.

So, what does a person in this situation do? Well, a person who's coverage for SSD has lapsed due to a "Past DLI" can attempt to file for SSI disability. SSI provides benefits up to a capped maximum (I believe for this year it is $680). SSI also provides medicaid coverage in most states. However--SSI, like medicaid, is a need based program. Meaning that it is for individuals who have limited income and resources. If you have more than $2000 in assets, you will automatically be ineligible for SSI disability. I'm guessing that, at 62, your dad may have more than $2000 in assets.

So, this could easily be the situation. He may have lost his coverage for title II SSD benefits and, due to resource limits on SSI, he may not be eligible for SSI.

If this is the case, the only way to qualify for disability would be if he, at some point, had less assets. Other than that, he may have to take early retirement benefits or wait until he is 65 to take his full retirement.

As I said, everything is in the details and the answer to your question could easily change based on them. The best way to get a certified answer to your particular question about this situation is to contact your local social security office. There they can look at your dad's case, whereas, honestly, others will just be guessing at the answer based on the information you've provided (with questions likes these, one tiny detail can change everything).

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