Social Security Disability Insurance: What Does It Mean to Be Insured for Disability?

January 17, 2013 by

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a disability benefits program that is paid for by working individuals and their employers through the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax. SSDI benefits are only available to individuals who become disabled after they have accumulated a work history with enough quarters or credits.

When applying for Social Security benefits, it’s important to know whether you have enough work history to qualify you to receive benefits. If you do, then you are insured for disability and may qualify for benefits. Some individuals with little or no work history may qualify for benefits under a spouse or parent who does have enough work history.

Social Security Disability Insurance - Calculating Quarters
of Work History

So exactly what is a “quarter” of work history and how many do you need to qualify for SSDI benefits?

Originally, a “quarter” (officially known as a “quarter of coverage” and also called a “Social Security credit” or just “credit”) referred to a quarter of the calendar year or three consecutive months. For the year 2013, workers are given a quarter of coverage (credit) for every $1,160 they earn in a calendar year, up to a maximum of four quarters per calendar year. This number increases every year according to increases in the National Average Wage Index. The number of quarters or credits you need to be insured under Social Security Disability Insurance depends on your age and how long you’ve been working and paying FICA taxes.

Fully Insured

To be fully insured for disability, you must have at least one quarter for each year between age 21 and the earliest of the following:

1. The year before you attain age 62,
2. The year before you die, or
3. The year you become disabled.

The minimum number of quarters to be fully insured is six quarters, even if the number of quarters calculated using the above data is less than six. Also, anyone with 40 or more quarters is automatically insured even if the above data indicates more are needed.

Permanently Insured

A person is considered permanently insured if they are fully insured and not at risk at losing their insured status if they stop working. For example, anyone with at least 40 quarters is permanently insured.

Disability Insured

A person has disability-insured status if they have earned at least 20 quarters during the last 10 years and are fully insured. There are some exceptions for claimants younger than 31 and for some special circumstances.

What If I’m Applying for Social Security Benefits on Another Person’s Social Security Disability Insurance?

If you are filing a claim for SSDI benefits as a disabled widow/widower or disabled adult child, then the spouse or parent whose Social Security Disability Insurance you are making the claim on must qualify under the criteria listed above in order to be insured.

Determining whether you are insured for disability can be complex and confusing. It’s best to have a disability lawyer review your case and help you determine whether you are insured before applying for Social Security benefits. You can receive a Free Consultation from Richard I. Feingold & Associates to find out if you are insured. Simply call our firm at (773) 989-9899 or call toll-free at (888) 701-8222.