One of the most important elements of advancing an SSD/SSI claim is timing. You need to know when to file for maximum benefits and when to complete each step of the process along the way. You may have seen my other detailed post going step by step through the claim process, but these next few posts will be a more abbreviated summary of some of the key dates and deadlines to keep in mind.
First, a word on the eligibility timeline. This differs for the two types of benefits. For SSD claims, something called “insured status” comes into play. Insured status is whether and when you are actually covered for disability benefits based on when you last worked. The general rule is the “20/40” rule, meaning that to be covered, you have to have paid a certain amount into the system in 20 out of the last 40 calendar quarters. (The rule varies slightly for young workers.) Essentially, it means you have to have worked five out of the last ten years as of the time you become disabled to qualify for benefits. We call this expiration date the date last insured. If you become disabled at a date later than that, or if the government decides that your disability status started after that, you don’t qualify for SSD benefits.
You can get your date last insured from your account on ssa.gov, which contains a copy of your full earnings report. Because it can be easily looked up, there’s no need for most people to know how to calculate it, but for most people who have worked full-time continually, it will be the end of the fifth calendar year after you stop working.
You don’t have to file your claim before the DLI to qualify, but you need to prove that you were disabled as of that date. Sometimes that means that you need to prove that you were disabled long ago, which could require getting old medical records and, this is the hard part, a retroactive medical opinion. Because claims sometimes take so long to process, it often happens that someone’s DLI will pass while they are fighting for benefits, and at that point the attorney needs to adjust their strategy accordingly.
The DLI concept isn’t applied to SSI claims, because the SSI benefit is not dependent on you paying in. For SSI, the only date that really matters to your eligibility, in most cases anyway, is the date you filed your application.
So now that you’ve read this far, let me get into the nitty gritty of how DLI is calculated. It’s kind of mucky, but it makes sense in the end.