Social Security disability insurance benefits are a bit like car insurance: you pay your premiums to obtain insurance covered. When it comes to Social Security disability, your premiums are your payroll taxes and the coverage is the disability insurance.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance, you have to have paid enough into the Social Security system through payroll taxes. Once you have worked long enough, you become insured for Disability Insurance benefits should you become unable to work.
What happens when you stop paying your premiums?
Just like for car insurance, you may be covered for some time after your last payment, but there will be a cut off date for your policy. If you have an accident before your cut off date, the insurance company will take care of you. However, if you have an accident after your policy lapses, the insurance company wont give you anything.
So, how does this apply to Social Security?
If you have stopped working (or have started a job that does not pay into Social Security — one example in Colorado is teachers, who pay into PERA instead), you stop paying the “insurance premium.” That means that sooner or later you will reach your date last insured. The last date you are insured for Disability Insurance benefits under Social Security.
Here is where things get a little tricky:
- The date last insured does not limit when you can file for benefits. You can still file for Disability Insurance benefits after your date last insured. Note: there are some exceptions to this which go beyond the scope of this article.
- The date last insured limits when you must prove your disability began. Just as in a car accident case where you have to prove that the accident happened while you were still insured, in a Social Security case, you have to prove that the disability occurred before the date last insured.
- If you can prove that your disability began before your DLI, you may be able to receive Disability Insurance benefits (even if you file for benefits after the DLI). If you cannot prove the disability began before the DLI, you might not be eligible for Disability Insurance.
Here is another important thing to keep in mind: date last insured only applies in Disability Insurance cases. Date last insured is not an issue in the “other” kind of Social Security disability benefits: Supplemental Security Income (SSI cases). While date last insured may make you be ineligible for Disability Insurance Benefits, you may still qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI).