Documenting Work History Important When Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

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Employment Records are One Element to SSDI Application, May Play Role in Disability Appeal

"Allsup representatives often work with claimants to handle questions about their work history because this can be a confusing area." --David Bueltemann, Allsup manager of senior claims representatives

Historically, about three in 10 applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are denied for technical (or nonmedical reasons). The most common technical denial is because applicants lack the work history needed for eligibility, according to Allsup, a nationwide provider of SSDI representation and Medicare plan selection services.

“Work history is an important element in your SSDI application,” said David Bueltemann, Allsup manager of senior claims representatives. “Even if you have a qualifying disability, the type of work you’ve done in the past will be considered when the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines your eligibility for SSDI benefits. Most importantly, you must have worked long enough and recently enough to be eligible to apply for SSDI.”

To illustrate, the SSA reported in its latest Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, released in October, that more than 700,000 technical denials were issued from about 2.2 million applications in 2008. SSDI is a federally mandated insurance program that taxpayers and their employers fund through payroll taxes. Social Security disability benefits provide monthly income to those who have experienced a severe disability and can no longer work for 12 months or longer, or who have a terminal condition.

Bueltemann explained that the SSA follows a five-step sequential process to evaluate SSDI applications, and that medical examiners make decisions based on medical documentation, age and work history, among other factors. If someone’s application has been denied, there may be work history issues to clear up during the disability appeal, as well.

“Allsup representatives often work with claimants to handle questions about their work history because this can be a confusing area,” Bueltemann said.

SSDI and Work History

To help applicants, Allsup explains four areas where documentation of someone’s work history plays a role in an SSDI claim.

  • Work history documents can prove that you are currently insured. Working taxpayers contribute to the SSDI program with their FICA taxes. To be eligible for SSDI, you must be “currently insured,” which means that you made recent FICA payments. Specifically, you must have paid for 20 quarters in the last 10 years to qualify.
  • Work history documents can determine if you are fully insured. This is a second qualifier used to determine SSDI eligibility. You can earn up to four quarters a year, and generally, you are required to have 40 quarters of coverage. The SSA uses another calculation for younger workers -- using six quarters of coverage, plus one quarter of coverage for each year after you reach age 21. For example, a person age 27 probably only needs 12 quarters of coverage to be fully insured.
  • Work history details also factor into the SSA’s determination if you are disabled. “The disability examiner will look at your disability, medical condition and your work experience when deciding your claim,” Bueltemann explained. “The SSA will evaluate your ability to perform the work you did in your past, as well as any type of work that you may be capable of performing now.” Read more about general disability guidelines on
  • Work history also factors into the amount of SSDI benefits you may receive. The SSA tracks your earnings and taxes paid to determine your Social Security retirement and, separately, your SSDI benefit amounts. These calculations are based on records filed by your employer, who is required to send the SSA a copy of your W-2 form.

Individuals who are not certain if they are eligible for SSDI based on their work history, or who have questions about handling their disability appeal, may contact Allsup’s Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 279-4357 for a free SSDI evaluation.

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs more than 700 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, visit


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Rebecca Ray
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