When you work for most employers, you pay premiums into the Social Security Disability Insurance program through FICA payroll taxes. After you have worked (and paid into the Social Security Disability system) long enough, you become fully insured, and therefore eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, should you become disabled.
How To Determine If You Are Fully Insured?
To determine whether you are fully insured, the Social Security Administration factors in how much you have worked in terms of “Quarters of Coverage.” You can earn up to four quarters of coverage each year.
In order to be fully insured for Social Security Disability purposes, you must have earned at least one quarter of coverage per year for each year since you turned 21 years old. A minimum of six quarters of coverage is needed to be fully insured at any age.
When you have achieved 40 quarters of coverage, you earn permanent fully insured status. At that point, you are fully insured for Social Security Disability benefits whether you continue to work or not, but you must have worked any five of the past 10 years to be approved for SSDI benefits. This is why it's imperative to apply for Social Security disability benefits as soon as you're unable to work.
Can You Receive Social Security Benefits If You Are Not Fully Insured?
While being fully insured is only one of the requirements for receiving Social Security Disability benefits, you can’t receive SSDI unless you are fully insured. SSDI, contrary to popular notion, is an actual insurance program and is funded by the premiums paid through FICA taxes.
If you are not sure whether you are fully insured, you should contact a Social Security Administration field office or a disability attorney experienced with Social Security Disability Insurance cases. If you are not fully insured, you will not be able to collect Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments.
It is worth noting that you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) even if you are not fully insured. SSI is a needs-based program, and its funding is not tied to FICA payments or to the quarters of coverage you have earned for SSDI. To qualify for SSI, you simply need to fall within the financial guidelines if you are disabled according to the Social Security Disability guidelines.
Talk to a Social Security Attorney
Your insurance status will definitely come up when you are applying for Social Security benefits, which can get very confusing at times. That is why it is recommended to seek the counsel of an experienced Social Security attorney.They can assist you in any questions you may have of your insurance status.