Experiencing Disability Before Retirement is Among Factors in Qualifying for SSDI

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People who have experienced a disability before retirement age may not realize they can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance; Allsup outlines factors in eligibility

Allsup, which represents people nationwide for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, frequently encounters questions on qualifying for the Social Security program. While Social Security offers the highly visible retirement program, disability insurance is another important benefit that can make a difference for individuals and their families prior to retirement age.

Each year, nearly 2.5 million people apply for SSDI in a complex process that often raises many questions. The first of which is, “Am I eligible for SSDI benefits?”

The answer to that question comes in two parts. The first is, “Have you worked long enough and recently enough?” The second is, “Are you disabled and no longer working?”

Generally, to qualify for SSDI, a person must have worked and paid into the program (payroll taxes) for five of the last 10 years. A person also cannot be “working,” or engaged in substantial gainful activity, based on the Social Security Administration definition. Earning more than $940 a month as an employee is enough to be disqualified from receiving Social Security disability benefits.

A person also must have been disabled before reaching full-retirement age (65-67) and must meet the SSA’s definition of disability. The SSA uses a process called sequential evaluation to determine who receives benefits.

Allsup’s professionals can determine not only if you meet the basic qualifications, but also if your condition, or conditions, meets the SSA’s definition of disability. Whether your disability meets the SSA standards can only be determined on a case-by-case basis, but the more basic qualifications are easier to explain.

Understanding Insured Status

In order to fulfill the basic qualification in applying for SSDI you must be both “currently insured” and “fully insured.”

First, let’s explain what currently insured means. If you earned $1,000 in 2007, you “bought a quarter.” You can get up to four quarters in each calendar year. For you to be currently insured you must have 20 quarters within the past 10 years. A simple way to explain this is working five out of the last 10 years. You also must be currently insured if you earned two quarters each year for the last 10 years.

Additionally, if you are under age 31 when you become disabled, it is possible to be currently insured with less than 20 quarters of coverage. To gain this “special insured status” you must have earned half of all possible quarters in the period between reaching age 21 and becoming disabled. For example, a 25-year-old would probably qualify as currently insured with only eight quarters of coverage.

Bottom line — you can only earn four quarters a year and you need 20 quarters in the last 10 years to be currently insured. If you were under age 31 when you became disabled, Allsup’s professionals would be able to help you determine how these rules affect your SSDI eligibility.

In addition to being currently insured, you also must be fully insured to apply for disability benefits. There are two ways to determine if you are fully insured.

The first is, “Do you have 40 quarters of coverage?” (Remember, you can earn up to four quarters a year.) If you do, then you are fully insured. The second way to be fully insured is to have six quarters of coverage plus one quarter of coverage for each year after the year you reach the age of 21. For example, the same 25-year-old we discussed earlier would probably only need 10 quarters of coverage to be fully insured.

To qualify for SSDI, you must be both currently insured and fully insured. Allsup’s SSDI professionals are always available to help you determine your eligibility.

Allsup, Belleville, Ill., is a leading nationwide provider of financial and healthcare-related services to people with disabilities. Founded in 1984, Allsup has helped more than 100,000 people receive their entitled Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare benefits. Allsup employs approximately 500 professionals who deliver services directly to consumers and their families, or through their employers and long-term disability insurance carriers.

For more information, visit Allsup.com.


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Rebecca Ray
800-854-1418 +5065
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Dan Allsup
800-854-1418 +5760
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