Although I have worked in the past, I was not employed when I became disabled. Can I get Social Security Disability benefits?

By / March 3, 2016 / Social Security Disability & SSI Basic Facts / 47 Comments

Learn how your work history may insure you for Social Security Disability benefits even if you were not working when you became disabled.

Yes, You May Be Able to Collect Social Security Disability
You may be able to get Social Security disability benefits even if you were unemployed at the time of your disability.

Work Credit Requirements
To be insured for disability benefits, Social Security requires that you earn a certain number of work credits over your lifetime. Additionally, some of these credits have to be earned in a specified period of time just before your disability begins, but you do not have to be employed at the time of disability.

Work credits are obtained by working in jobs that are subject to Social Security taxation and by earning a certain dollar amount. As the cost of living has increased, the amount of earnings required for a one work credit has also increased. For example, in 2002, a work credit was $820.00 in earnings, and in 2011, it was $1,120.00. In 2017 it became $1,300.00. The number of credits required depends on your age.

For more information about work-credit requirements and becoming insured for disability benefits, please visit our article How Much Social Security-covered Work do I Need to Get Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits?

Proof of Recent Work
When you apply for benefits, it is helpful to take documentation of your recent earnings that may not yet be posted in Social Security’s records. Your prior-year W-2s or self-employment tax returns and proof of any current-year earnings, such as pay stubs or business receipts and expenses, will help Social Security correctly assess whether you have enough work credits to be qualify for Social Security Disability.

Although I have worked in the past, I was not employed when I became disabled. Can I get Social Security Disability benefits?
Rate this post

  • Dear Eddy,

    You can file a Social Security Disability (SSDI) application now and claim your disability date back when you were last working in the military service. You can find out from the Social Security Administration the date you were last insured. Once you have that date, you will know that you have to prove that you became disabled before that date.

    If you can, submit medical documentation back to when you became disabled six years ago; but if you cannot, try to submit medical records from at least a year before your last insured date to present. If you can prove that you became disabled while insured, your SSDI benefits will start twelve months before the month in which you apply. Also, if you currently don’t have income or have low income and assets, you might qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability, which does not require work credits for citizens and some legal aliens.

    Information about filing a claim can be found under “Applying for Benefits” in the drop-down menu under the Social Security Disability/SSI tab at the top of this web page.

    Sincerely,
    Kay

  • Dear Eddy,

    You can file an application now claiming the date you became disabled (back when you were twenty-five). If you can prove disability then or somewhat later while you were still insured for Social Security Disability you can receive benefits. The benefits themselves will start a maximum of twelve months before the month of application. You can start the application online at http://www.ssa.gov. See our articles about filing a claim in the drop down menu under the Social Security Disability/SSI tab at the not of this web page.

    Sincerely,
    Kay

  • Dear Bluebeard,

    If you agreed to the change in onset, you do not have appeal rights and cannot get benefits based on an earlier disability date. On the other hand, if you did not agree to a change in onset and your approval was partially favorable, you can file a reconsideration appeal on the onset date. Before doing so, it would be a good idea to request a copy of your claim file to see the exact reasons for the determination and discuss your case with an experienced Social Security attorney.

    When you hire a Social Security attorney, you do not have to pay any legal fees up front and you will pay attorney fees only if you are approved for benefits. Social Security law sets the amount the attorney can charge and the Social Security Administration pays the attorney directly from your back pay.

    Sincerely,
    Kay

  • Dear Shaylene,

    I am not knowledgeable about benefit programs and tax laws in Canada, so unfortunately, I cannot be of help.

    Sincerely,
    Kay

  • Dear Shaylene,

    Please clarify a couple things for me so I can see if I have a response for you. Are you living in British Columbia now? If not and you are living in the States in which state is your residence?
    Lastly, are you saying that your employer pays both the employee’s and employer’s taxes without withholding any taxes from you paycheck?

    Sincerely,
    Kay

  • You are welcome, Tiffany.

  • Dear Pumpkin Princess,

    If since you became disabled shortly after ceasing work and you have never performed substantial gainful activity (SGA) or did so for less that six months and stopped work because of your health, you can file a claim for Social Security Disability (SSDI) and claim as your date of disability onset the day you would first have been unable to work due to the osteoarthritis. (Sorry for all the “if’s,” but multiple conditions have to be met to claim a date a long ways in the past.) If you are able to prove that your condition was disabling back then and continuously since then and you were insured at that time, your claim would be approved. (Payments would be limited to twelve months before application.)

    Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is usually measured by earnings a certain amount of gross wages or net self-employment (profit from self-employment) per month. Certain other factors are also considered with self-employment. The following amounts were SGA in the following years.

    In calendar year 2017, $1,170
    In calendar year 2016, $1,130
    In calendar year 2015, $1,090
    In calendar year 2014, $1,070
    In calendar year 2013, $1,040
    In calendar year 2012, $1,010
    In calendar year 2011, $1,000
    In calendar year 2010, $1,000
    In calendar year 2009, $980
    In calendar year 2008, $940
    In calendar year 2007, $900
    In calendar year 2006, $860
    In calendar year 2005, $830
    In calendar year 2004, $810
    In calendar year 2003, $800
    In calendar year 2002, $780

    If you cannot get your medical records as far back as to a date that you were still insured or the records are insufficient, you might be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which can be applied for simultaneously. SSI pays disability benefits to individuals whose family income and assets are within certain limits. You can read about SSI in the articles in the drop-down menu the Social Security Disability/SSI button at the top of this webpage.

    Sincerely,
    Kay

  • Dear R.,

    You are not insured for Social Security Disability. If your income and assets and those of your spouse if you are married and living with your spouse are limited, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits. You can apply for SSI at a Social Security office either by walking in or by caling 800-772-1213 to request an appointment.

    Sincerely,
    Kay

  • Dear Steven,

    It is possible to be approved for a closed period of disability up until when you recovered. You can appeal the judge’s decision to the Appeals Council if you think the judge did not consider all the evidence or made other errors. I suggest that you request a copy of your claim file and hearing transcript and review the information with an experienced Social Security attorney to see if you have a basis for appeal. If you want to appeal, be sure to file within the allowed sixty day period.

    Sincerely,
    Kay

  • Larry

    Hello Kay, I was employed for the past 21 years and the company had layoffs about 18 months ago. A little over a month after leaving work I had a severe case of vertigo where I could even walk for a few weeks after and had bad headaches for about a month after. I have since had 3 more episodes where it is pretty my debilitating for approximately a month which has hindered my ability to even look for a job. I get really bad headaches when on the computer or my phone for over 5 minutes or so. My question is would I be eligible to temporary disability until I get more stable?

    Thank you

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Larry,

      To receive Social Security Disability (SSD/SSDI), you only have to be disabled for a period of twelve months. When you become free of the symptoms, you can return to work and have your benefits stopped.
      Because have been having intermittent disabling symptoms for about seventeen months, you should start your application this month to avoid potential loss of back benefits for the past twelve months. (The first five calendar months of disability are not paid.)

      In filing your claim, claim the beginning date of the first episode as your disability onset date. Also state in writing athat during the past seventeen months (or length of time since the start of the first episode) you have had four periods of inability to work each lasting a month or more and that it is not possible to work with that level of absenteeism. If you have received a diagnosis such as Meniere’s Disease, be sure to list the diagnosis; and also list dates and types of testing you have undergone.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Tina Arnold

    I was looking into disability but on the first page it ask if you have worked in the last 14 months. I have but was out of work alot. Pretty sure it caused me to be pink slipped. Last week I was diagnosed with pcos with causes fatigue, anxiety, depression, obesity. On top of this I have had anxiety and depression since I was 19. Pcos is inherented and although you can evidently maintain it if your able to loose some weight you will always have it. I started a med metformin and it causes brain fog, extreme fatigue etc..the other day I could not even drive and my motor skills are off.. I worked yesterday in the lunchroom and I have thrown up and achy all over. I can’t function. But I have also had high blood pressure for a long time. I started seeing a psych last year for severe depression and I am currently on a sleeping pill thar doesn’t touch the insomnia from pcos and two antidepressants. I’m not sure how long this will last from the pcos but years ago I had mono and I was hospitaliced for Epstein that caused my liver to mess up..it went back to normal but I have to check it because also the pcos can cause liver damage.. what are your ideas?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Tina,

      If you are earning less than $1,130 a month, I suggest that you apply for benefits. List the work you have done and the problems you had that caused you to be let go. If your earnings reach $1,130 gross but part was sick pay, add up what you earned in the hours you actually worked using the itemization on your pay stubs to figure out whether you actually worked and earned that amount. If the stubs are not itemized, get a statement from your employer of the amount of each paycheck that was sick or annual leave.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      • Sherrie

        My husband was killed in 2001 had knee problems for years living off of cortizone shots out of work due to being pregnant and knee not holding the extra weight but he died when I was 8.5 months pregnant with a 21 month old child I was 33 at the time so got survivors benefits. Starting seeing orthopedic surgeon in new state near parents for help had BCBS medical ins. who denied a total knee replacement until I maxed out all shots and physical therapy and synvisc shots which none helped but doctor had mentioned did I know I had widower’s benefits until December of 2005 because he had put me disabled as of Sept. 2005 which I had no clue but anyway in 2007 had total knee replacement at 39 it went extremely bad cant bend squat barely walk and components and cement are all loose and in upper thigh I have wasting and after surgery lost my medical then doctor moved away his replacement said I needed it amputated so I just walked out filed for disability in 2008 and after turned down twice finally after years of attorneys not taking my case I begged one to help well finally in May 25, 2016 had a hearing attorney put onset date as September 2005 the judge approved it got fully approval attorney made sure to remind of that date for backpay but now being told no backpay for me from my ssa in town but the 800 number shows me getting backpay and that my two kids should also and they got their benefits increased to an extra 368.00 a month but I have to pay for medicare so I lost money. I have an 80% chance of losing part of my leg which ws in my notes but this rude woman said my widowers benefits have already paid me I am owed nothing. I can not work lost home to foreclosure live with parents my mom has to take care of me I am bedridden until about three in the afternoon in excruciating pain and using a walker because my other knee has a tear and am falling a lot. Ok so do I get backpay or not on my medicare card it says my disability started in March 2013 and in letter from ssa so what are your thoughts I am worried to death

        • Kay Derochie

          Dear Sherrie,

          If you were approved for Social Security Disability (SSD), your SSD and and your children’s benefits should begin to accrue twelve months before your 2008 application, which is the maximum retroactivity. If you are eligible for benefits, the children will be paid on both their parents’ earnings record causing the amount to increase.

          You probably no longer getting benefits on your husband’s account because your benefit is higher. However, when you turn fifty, if the widows benefit is higher then, you can apply for disabled widows benefits because disabled widows benefits are payable to survivors who become disabled no more than seven years after last being entitled to mothers benefits for having children in her care. At that time, you can evaluate whether it would be better to take the reduced widows benefits or wait to get full benefits at full retirement age of sixty-seven.

          The date on the Medicare card would indicate benefits starting in March 2011, which is inconsistent with a 2008 application and a 2005 onset.

          Sincerely,
          Kay

  • Paul Rodriquez

    I’m a US Veteran and have been homeless and unemployed for 10 years & now I have cancer thruout my bones (prostate cancer), how is it possible to recieve my ss benefits? Or any other benefit I may be intitled too? Would appreciate any help possible.

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Paul,

      I suggest that if you are a wartime veteran, you contact the Veterans Administration to apply for VA pension benefits based on total permanent (not service-connected) disability and financial need. Also, contact the Social Security Administration to apply for Supplemental Security income (SSI) disability benefits.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Tammy

    I’m 51yrs old and I was going to go back to work, I haven’t worked in about 12yrs. Over a year ago I ended up with a severe case of psoriasis. I have taken therapy all kinds of meds. It’s not getting any better. My feet get infected and sometimes I can’t walk. There is no way I could work. Do you think I could draw disability?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Tammy,

      Because you have not worked in the past ten years, you are not eligible for Social Security Disability (SSDI). If your (and if you are married your spouse’s) income and assets are below the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) limits, you can apply for SSI and have your medical condition and limitations evaluated to see whether you meet the SSI definition of disability, which is the same as for Social Security. You can learn more about SSI by reading the articles under the SSI tab at the top of this web page.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Donna Mirra

    My son was on SSID 10 years ago for stents and a triple bypass. Now at age 54 he had a stroke but didn’t have enough credits for SSDI. So he was denied. Would the fact that he’s disabled now for the same condition allow that denial to be appealed? He’s due to be discharged now but we can’t get a pending Medicaid bed.

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Donna,

      Your son can appeal, but unless he can prove more work than is now in the records, the appeal won’t be successful. He can apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability, which is also administered by the Social Security Administration.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Karen

    If I received SSI at the time my disability was approved and was eligible for payment under my husbands record if we were separated can I get back payments

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Karen,

      If you become eligible for benefits based on your husband’s earnings record and the benefit is higher than your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit, for months that you are eligible for both, you will be paid the difference between the two benefits.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      • lilu

        If you were entitled to survivor benefits for twenty years, how do they calculate it? Based on the rate you should receive this month or the old amount? Can you please tell me if it is just what you would have received had it been paid on time or is it based on your current amount? Maybe COLA is what I am wondering is going to be included in retroactive payments or not.

        Thanks 🙂

        • Kay Derochie

          Dear Lilu,

          Social Security survivor benefits are paid for a maximum of six months before the date of application. Any cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) that occur between the first month of entitlement and the date the back benefits are paid will be applied to benefits for the year to which the COLA corresponds.

          Sincerely,
          Kay

          • lilu

            Thank you Kay.

            • Kay Derochie

              You are welcome, Lilu.

  • Karen

    If my widow benefits are $1200 a month and Ifile on my own record which is less than$600 a month and I am 59 years old am I elegible for both payments or can I take only the disability widow benefits

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Karen,

      Filing for disability on your own earnings record will not increase your overall income. You will be paid $600 off your record and $600 off your deceased spouse’s record.

      Sincerely,
      Kay
      Kay

  • Karen

    I am disabled and get survivor widow benefits from deceased husband I will have 37 credits in January can I apply for my disability on my own record at that time and still get my widow pay if it is less than $600 a month

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Karen,

      Whether or not you will be insured in January depends on how old you will be then–you must have one credit for each year between age 21 and the later of the age you became disabled or the date you became insured. Also at least twenty of the work credits have to have been earned in the last ten years.

      If you are eligible, the retirement benefits will be reduced if you are under full retirement age and the reduction would be permanent. If you are eligible, your current income would not increase. That said, there are many facets to deciding which benefit to take first and which to leave to take unreduced at full retirement age. Accordingly, I recommend that you go over your choices with an SSA claims representative.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • stacy Hinkle

    Do I need to call my payee on the day my phone bill is due

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Stacy,

      You should let your payee know when the bill is received, not when it is due, so that the payment can be made and received by the phone company by or before the due date.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • LILLY

    WHAT IF SOMEONE YOU KNOW NEVER WORKED A DAY, BUT HER SISTER DID AND USED HER SS NUMBER. IF THAT ..SOMEONE IS NOW FOUND TO BE DISABLED AND RECEIVE’S SSD, IS THAT FRAUD?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Lilly,

      Yes, that is fraud on two counts: use of someone else’s Social Security number and falsifying information to get government benefits. If you know this is occurring, I encourage you to report it.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • I had 1 1/2 years of unemployment,and federal taxes were deducted in Illinois.will those years count as credit requirements for SSDI? I was laid off in 2010 got unemployment for those 1 1/2 years. Had surgery on both hands I applied for SSDI they determined I am disabled but now they need to figure if I have enought credits. Disability date is 6-8-14 I have worked all my life and am 57.

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Adel,

      Taxation of unemployment benefits does not give you work credits for Social Security coverage. If you worked steadily in the five years ending in 2010, you may still be insured for benefits.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • connie

    This is for my husband he’s got Demylating desease secondary progressive ms lesions on his brain cannot walk without assistant very weak legs can’t pick his legs up without help showers sitting cannot cook can’t stand long enough

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Connie,

      If you have a question, please post again.

      Thank you,

      Kay

  • Traci

    I was diagnosed with Crohns Disease in Aug 2012. Now, I’m considering applying. I have 32 work credits, but it says my credits don’t fall into the right time period if I became disabled now. If I became disabled in 2012, would this be calculated differently. Last year when I checked my SSD earning statement, it said I was eligible for SSD based on work credits. Now, in 2014, it says I’m not. What do I do?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Traci,

      If you became disabled before your insured status (enough work credits in the right period) ran out for Social Security Disability (SSD), you can apply now and receive benefits based on the earlier incurred date.

      You do not say whether you are still working. If you are still working, it is likely that 2013’s work earnings have not moved through the IRS/Social Security computer interface (exchange of information). This means that you could still be insured because your 2013 earnings have not posted in Social Security’s records. If you apply for SSD, give Social Security a copy of your 2013 W-2s so your earnings can be credited early. (As an aside, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) does not have a work earnings requirement for U.S. citizens and some foreign nationals. If your income and assets are below the SSI limits, SSI disability could be an alternative.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  • Pc Tech

    Prior to my current job, I was on SSD due to being profoundly deaf, then I got a job and have been at this job over 10 years. If I quit my job and get a part time job (so the earnings do not exceed substantial gainful income guidelines) can I go back on SSD due to my deafness??

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear PC Tech,

      I suggest that you get legal advice from an attorney who is well-versed in Social Security law and/or talk with a Social Security claims representative. The general definition of disability includes the inability to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA) for reasons other than a medical condition. This could mean if you can work full time and perform your current occupation with your deafness, you might not be found eligible because you have demonstrated that you can perform SGA even if you choose not to. On the other hand, if your condition is listed and meets the requirements in the listings of severe impairments, you might be eligible.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  • Shirley Wirth

    I have recently had major eye surgery. It may be a year before it heals. Can I draw disabiltiy benefits.

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Shirley,

      Whether or not you will be approved depends on how much and how you will be limited over that year’s time. I suggest that you apply. If you are denied because they say you will not be disabled a year and think you will, wait until you are about forty-five days into the sixty-day appeal period to appeal. That way by the time the appeal is being reviewed you will be farther into the year’s time.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  • Donna Roark

    I am a 60 year old female living in Mo. I fall into the category of insufficient work history.However,I have coronary artery disease-hypotension-hypertension-c.o.p.d.-osteoporaine- arthritis and massive stroke which left me with the use of only one arm. I receive 84.00 s.s.i. benefits because my husband gets social security and a small monthly retirement. I wonder what it would entail to receive ssdi instead of s.s.i.?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Donna,

      When you turn age sixty-two, you can receive Social Security wife’s benefits. You can apply three months in advance of your birthday. The amount will depend on the amount of your husband’s primary insurance amount as related to the family maximum. The benefit can be up to half of your husband’s benefit. Should your husband pass away before you turn sixty-two–which, of course, we hope he won’t, you could apply for widow’s benefits before you are sixty-two.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

Read It To Me
Listen to the article with our text to speech feature
Ask the Adivsor
Click for the BBB Business Review of this Online Publications in Orlando FL

Send this to a friend