The Social Security Administration’s eligibility requirements for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be confusing.  If you have applied for SSDI benefits, you may have been told about your Date Last Insured (DLI).  Your DLI is one of the first things Social Security checks when determining whether you are eligible for disability benefits.


Most workers either have Social Security taxes deducted from their paychecks or pay them when they file their tax returns on self-employment income.  For each quarter (three-month period) that you earn enough money, Social Security awards you a credit for that quarter.  You must accumulate enough work credits to be eligible for Social Security’s different programs. For Social Security Disability Insurance, not only must you have enough work credits, but you must have enough of them in the last ten years in order to qualify.  Social Security’s formula for calculating the required number of credits is complicated; the number of credits you need varies depending on your age.  However, if you are over the age of thirty you generally need to have worked and earned credits for five of the last ten years.  (If you are younger than age thirty, you generally need to have work credits for about half the time since you turned twenty-one.)

Therefore, as time passes after you stop working and earning credits, the fewer of your work credits count toward your eligibility for disability.  Eventually you will reach the point at which you no longer have enough work credits to qualify for disability.  This point is your Date Last Insured.  If it has been several years since you have worked, your DLI may be in the past.  If this is the case, you may still be eligible for SSDI, but you will have to show that you became disabled before your DLI.  If you stopped working recently after having worked consistently for several years, your DLI is most likely in the future.

I often explain the DLI issue to my clients like this: when you buy a house, you pay premiums for homeowner’s insurance.  If you stop paying premiums, your policy will expire.  If your house burns down before your policy expires, your losses are covered.  If it burns down the day after your policy expires, the insurance company will not pay your claim.  In the same way, when you stop working, you stop acquiring work credits.  If you become disabled after your credits expire (on your Date Last Insured), it doesn’t matter how severe your impairments are; Social Security will not pay benefits.

It is very important, then, to apply for disability as soon as possible after you become disabled.  I have represented clients whose DLIs were in the past.  Often, the judges in those cases did not want to talk about any of the clients’ symptoms after the DLI; they only focused on medical evidence that was dated prior to the DLI.  The further in the past your DLI, the more difficult it is to obtain the relevant medical records and the more difficult it is for you to accurately explain to the judge why you were unable to work at that time.

If you do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI or you have become disabled after your DLI, you still may qualify for some type of disability benefits through Social Security.  If you are a surviving spouse or an adult child of a disabled worker, you may be eligible to receive benefits based on your spouse’s or parent’s work record.  If your income and financial resources fall below certain criteria, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  These programs have other eligibility requirements, but they do not rely on your DLI.

Indianapolis is my home, and Indiana is my state.  I have experience with SSDI and SSI claims and take great pride in helping my fellow Hoosiers.  Whether you choose to be represented by a disability attorney or not, it is important that you find out as much as you can about your eligibility for Social Security’s disability programs.