There are two programs under the Social Security Administration that enable individuals to receive benefits when they are deemed to have met Social Security’s definition of disability—that is, when an individual is unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.
Social Security Disability Insurance, also known as Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), is one such program that allows qualifying individuals to receive benefits upon a favorable disability determination. The other program is Supplemental Security Income. Eligibility requirements for the former are primarily dependent upon the applicant’s earnings record whereas the latter’s eligibility requirements are predicated on the applicant’s current financial resources. The amount of benefits received under the Disability Insurance Benefits program will depend on the applicant’s payroll contributions to Social Security over time whereas the maximum amount of benefits allotted under Supplemental Security Income are federally set.
Determining whether you are eligible for Disability Insurance Benefits will require review of your work history, which Social Security categorizes into quarters of coverage. These quarters of coverage are also called “Work Credits.” In order to be considered currently fully insured, you must have 20 quarters of coverage within the previous 10 years. If you have worked in your full capacity throughout the year, then you have earned the maximum of four quarters of coverage that one can earn within each calendar year.
The total number of work credits earned will entitle you to insurance coverage through a specified limited time period. This is known as the “Date Last Insured,” or “DLI”. If you cannot demonstrate that you became disabled before your DLI, then you will not qualify for Disability Insurance Benefits. Additionally, if you are an individual who has never worked, and thus have not earned any credits entitling you to coverage, then you also do not meet the eligibility requirements for Disability Insurance Benefits.
There are certain limited situations in which individuals who do not have enough work credits under their own earnings record might still be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance. These circumstances include: when an applicant is applying for Disabled Adult Child benefits; an application based on a spouse’s or former spouse’s earnings record; or Widow/er’s benefits and Children’s benefits when the spouse or parent is deceased.