There are a lot of complex issues in disability law, especially to people to have never had to deal with a federal agency before.
But one of the most continually confusing things for claimants is that there are actually two types disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income.
And depending on your work history and current financial situation, you can be eligible for both, just one, or even neither.
Social Security Disability Insurance is the program you want to qualify for, if possible. Think of it like a disability insurance policy that you’re purchasing from the federal government.
To qualify for disability insurance, you need to pay FICA taxes on your earnings and earn quarters of coverage. Currently, earnings of $1,410, paid at any point during the year, equal a quarter of coverage. So if you made $5,640 this year, you earn the maximum four quarters of coverage.
You need 40 quarters of coverage to be fully insured, and to have earned 20 quarters of coverage in the past 10 years to be eligible for disability insurance benefits.
Where many claimants run into trouble is that while they’ve been working regularly before becoming disabled, and would be earning four quarters of coverage a year, they don’t report those earnings, and thus don’t meet the insured status.
Even only partially reporting wages can have devastating consequences as this can drastically reduce your monthly disability benefit since it’s based on your earnings.
The good news is that in many cases, individuals who haven’t filed taxes on their earnings are still eligible for Supplemental Security Income, but since that program is need-based and eligibility is restricted by any assets you own, some people unfortunately do not qualify for either program.