Don’t Get Tripped Up by “Date Last Insured”

September 14, 2020

The awarding of disability benefits is governed by hundreds of regulations which can trip up disability applicants. One of the most confusing disability concepts is the “date last insured”. But it is also one of the most important factors that disability applicants need to understand. Let us help sort this out for you.

When you buy private disability insurance, it is pretty straightforward: You are covered once you start paying the premiums and coverage lasts as long as you keep paying them. If you stop paying the premiums your coverage goes away. With Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), we pay the “premiums” with a portion of the federal FICA deductions withheld from our paychecks. Like private insurance, SSDI has an eligibility start date and end date, with the end date being the “date last insured”. But unlike private insurance, with SSDI you must build up coverage; that is, you must have enough recent credits to be eligible for benefits if you become disabled. The number of credits that are required depends on your employment history, how much you have earned and when you became unable to work.

Before you can apply for disability under the Social Security Disability Insurance program, you must meet the minimum requirements specified by the SSA under the agency’s recent work test, also known as “quarters of coverage.” These requirements are posted on the SSA’s website.

This brings us to “date last insured” (DLI). Your “date last insured” is one of the first things Social Security looks at when evaluating your claim no matter how disabling your condition is. SSA reviews the prior ten years before the date of your disability application. While— like most Social Security regulations—there are several factors to consider, in general, your DLI generally expires around five years after you stop working.

Because DLI rules can be complex, a couple of case studies may help make the rules more understandable.

Case Study #1: Michael, a forty-year old steel worker, has worked his whole life. In October 2014 he suffered a disabling injury at work and was unable to continue working. Michael kept hoping his condition would improve and he would be able to go back to work. Finally in November 2019 he accepted that he would not be able to work again and he applied for disability benefits. Was he eligible? The answer here is yes, he was eligible. Although his “date last insured” is likely in 2019 (five years after he left his last job), the onset of his disability occurred before the “date last insured,” Of course, he had to prove to the SSA with medical records that his injury occurred when he said it did.

Case Study #2: Judy, a human resources manager with 10 years on the job, quit working on April 16, 2013, to stay at home and care for her mother. In December 2019 she returned to work. On July 1, 2020 she was struck by a car, which left her paralyzed and unable to work. Was she eligible for SSDI? Unfortunately not. In this case, Judy’s coverage had run out. Because her “date last insured” was in 2018 and her disability began in 2020, she had not earned the required number of credits in her new job, and she was not eligible for SSDI.

The “Date last insured” only applies to the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. It does not apply to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program which is for individuals with very little or no income (for more on SSI read the blog post: What Is The Difference Between SSDI And SSI?)

As we said at the beginning of this article, “date last insured” adds more complexity to the already confusing disability process. If DLI is an issue in your disability case, we encourage you to contact us now at Nash Disability Law, Chicagoland’s leading Social Security disability firm, for a free evaluation of your case.

Too many times at our law firm we have seen the situation where a client has waited to file for benefits after their DLI date has expired. Too often the client means well and is holding out hope that their health will improve and they will be able to return to the work they did before. But when they don’t get better they find themselves in a difficult financial situation and they are ineligible for the lifeline of disability benefits, because too much time has passed. Don’t let this happen to you.