When applying for Social Security Disability benefits, your “last insured date” is a key factor that initially dictates whether you are eligible to apply for benefits. The last insured date is the date on which your eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits ends. When you apply for SSDI benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will look at your work history to determine your last insured date. To receive SSDI benefits, you must prove that your disability onset date occurred before your last insured date.
To be eligible for SSDI benefits, you must have earned a predetermined number of quarterly work quarters. Once you have earned enough credits to qualify for SSDI, you become “insured” for disability benefits. To earn credit for a work quarter, an individual must have earned a minimum amount of money during that quarter. For example, the amount of earnings required for a quarter of coverage in 2023 is $1,640.
Generally, an individual over 31 years of age needs to have earned 40 work quarters in total. Also, 20 of the work quarters must have been earned in a 10 year look-back period immediately before the onset of your disability. (i.e. did you work in 20 of the past 40 quarters?). Based on this math, if you have not worked for more than 5 years (20 quarters) then you likely will no longer be insured for SSDI purposes. You still can apply for benefits, but you must prove that your disability began prior to the last insured date.
Younger individuals may be eligible with fewer work quarters. If you are under 24, you only need to earn 6 credits in the 3 year period before the onset of disability. If you are between ages 24 and 31, you need to earn credits for working half the quarters between age 21 and the onset of disability.
Based on these formulas, if you no longer are able to work due to a permanent disability, it is important to initiate your application for SSDI benefits in a timely manner.