An individual’s “date last insured” establishes the period of coverage during which an individual must prove that they became disabled.
Social Security Is Actually a Kind of Insurance
The taxes paid to Social Security act like a “premium” paid for any other insurance, and they accrue as “work credits” on a quarter-year basis. Once paid in and credited, each quarter of coverage establishes a certain amount of time during which an individual can establish that they became disabled.
Just as with an expired policy for car insurance or medical insurance, if a person becomes unable to work after their date last insured, there is no recourse for Title II Worker’s benefits under Social Security law.
Earning Coverage Through Work and FICA
As mentioned above, an individual earns “coverage” for Social Security Title II Disability benefits by working at a sufficient earnings level and paying FICA taxes, which stands for the “Federal Insurance Contributions Act.” FICA taxes are comprised of two separate taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes. If a worker earns enough in wages in a given quarter, those wages go towards the worker’s eligibility for Title II benefits. In 2019, to qualify for a “quarter of coverage,” an individual must have earned $1,360 in the respective quarter.
Calculating The Date Last Insured
Based on how many quarters of coverage you earn over your working life, and when you stopped working, the Administration will then calculate an individual’s date last insured. The most common method for calculating this date is called the “20/40” test. Social Security will look at your earnings record, and generally count back 20 covered quarters, and will then count forward by 40 quarters (both covered and uncovered). Typically, this means that if an individual has worked full time for five years in the last ten years, they are still “insured” for Title II benefits.
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Date Last Insured, Example 1
Fred, a mechanic, has worked his whole life. In June 2008, he was let go from his position because his company moved overseas. He has looked for work, but has been unable to find any at his skill level. For purposes of the insured disability benefits, his date last insured was June 30, 2013. On July 1, 2013, despite otherwise being in great health, he was struck by a car, and became completely unable to work under. Is he entitled to Title II Worker Disability benefits? Not under Social Security law, though he may be eligible for Title XVI disability benefits, also known as Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”).
In this case, because Fred was not working, his coverage slowly ran out. Even though his accident was a few days after his date last insured, he would likely be unable to obtain benefits under Title II Worker’s Disability insurance, as he was injured outside his period of coverage.
Date Last Insured, Example 2
Tina, aged 40, takes time off to be with her children when they are young. She worked full time from the time she left high school through the end of 2009, but did not work after the birth of her child through the present date. She is curious about her date last insured. It is likely that her date last insured has passed at the end of 2014. Coverage is established by earnings, and her earnings ended in 2009. Counting back 20 quarters and then forward 40 quarters places her date last insured at the end of 2014. If Tina wants to establish a disabling condition under Title II Worker’s Disability benefits, she would have to do so prior to her date last insured. In other words, Tina must prove that she became disabled by or before her date last insured in 2014; however, this does not mean that Tina must have filed for benefits prior to her date last insured.
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