SSDIB is similar to term insurance
Anyone in Tennessee can file for Social Security disability insurance benefits. However, if they do not meet all of the criteria for SSDI, they will not prevail.
In addition to the ever-dreaded medical criteria, there are the nonmedical requirements. What this largely means is whether the person has insured status at all under the SSDI program, during the period they first endure their disability.
The recency test: 20/40
So how does that work? Generally, except for younger adults, a person must have worked and earned Social Security earnings credits of at least 20 during the last 40 quarters. Forty quarters is 10 years. The 20 credits need not arrive consecutively, there may be gaps and breaks.
To earn the credits, of which there is a maximum of four per year, one must earn reported taxable income of $1300 as of 2017. However, that amount was less in prior years and will likely be greater in future years.
Earning one to four credits per year
Thus, if one earned $5200 in 2017, that worker earned all four credits. If one earned $3000, that person will have earned two of the four possible credits. That smaller amount could give that person insured status after 10 such years. However, the window of insured status could be very short, such as only a three-month or six-month window. This is because soon the earned credits from the 10th year prior will no longer be within the past 10 years, as time marches on.
Optimal five-year window of insured status
That said, if one has worked and earned at least four credits for each of the minimum five years leading up to being unable to work at all, then there will be at term of about five years of insured status available to that person for filing and proving purposes. That is because those recent years’ credits will continue to all be in that 10-year look-back for longer than if all credits arose in the early years of that same 10-year period.
It is that period of insured status in which the person must prove that the disabled condition began. The person need not file that first application during the window, and can file six years later, but must prove a retroactive start date the is within that five-year insured status period.
Dangers of delaying filing after disability onset
Thus, delaying filing can be very detrimental. Delaying may mean a filer only gets one bite of the apple. If the person cannot prove the that they meet the SSA’s definition of disabled on that particular application, he or she generally cannot file again if there is no longer any insured status window available.