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The “Date Last Insured,”  of DLI, is an important concept in social security disability cases and it can be hard to understand.  If your claim was denied and the denial letter says “we did not find that you became disabled prior to X date,” then you could very well be in a situation where the DLI could be a barrier to receiving benefits.

People who work in most jobs pay in to Social Security, both for retirement and for disability.  Once you have paid in enough credits for retirement, then you are eligible for retirement benefits when you reach your retirement age.  The disability benefit has an additional requirement.  In order to qualify for disability, you have to pay into social security for 20 of the 40 quarters, or 5 of the 10 years, prior to becoming disabled.  In the simplest case, a person who stops working for reasons not related to health and then becomes disabled due to a sudden event over 5 years later cannot qualify for disability because that person is beyond his or her DLI.  Another way to think of this is to say that there is an eligibility period for disability benefits that expires five years after a person stops working.

This can become much more complicated if a person works sporadically and earns social security credits in some years but not in others.  You can still file a claim after your DLI, but it will be much more difficult, and in many cases impossible, to qualify for benefits if you are filing a claim for the first time after your Date Last Insured.  This is because new medical evidence will likely not be considered unless it clearly “relates” to your condition during the time period when you were still eligible for benefits.  If you had health problems but did not go to a doctor until after your DLI, then social security will very likely be unable to consider your disability claim favorably.

I do have some practical advice to help avoid this situation.  If you are still working and have health insurance, go see your doctor.  If you have become unable to work, file a claim as soon as practical and then if it is denied, request a hearing as soon as possible.  If you are reluctant to file a claim, remember that you paid in to social security, which is there for all of us.  Consult an attorney.  In some cases, there can be enough existing medical evidence to prove a claim even if your DLI is in the past.  If your DLI is already in the past when you receive a denial, it is crucial to appeal that denial because you will be unable to file a new claim for those past benefits once the denial becomes final.

People who can’t get SSDI because of a DLI problem can sometimes get SSI benefits if they meet the income and asset limits of the SSI program.

One strategy that is sometimes necessary is to consider working part time to establish or re-establish credits for disability.  Relatively little work is needed to earn each “credit” for social security purposes, and you can earn 4 credits in a year.  Information for the current year can always be found at ssa.gov.

For more information, contact our office