If you are currently unemployed, you can still qualify for disability benefits. Those who are unemployed because they can't work due to their disability may have a better chance of getting approved for disability benefits.
Many people are under the false assumption that the money they pay in FICA taxes goes into some kind of a savings account to be used later if they should need it for Social Security Disability. Nothing could be further from the truth. The money paid into FICA which is used to fund Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, is actually a form of insurance premium (hence the name "Social Security Disability Insurance").
On account of this, like any other kind of insurance, you need to continue paying into the system in order to retain coverage. Just as our automobiles would not continue to be insured if we stopped paying premiums, we will eventually cease to be covered if we stop working and don’t continue to pay into FICA.
When determining eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, the past ten years are considered. In most cases, if you have not worked in the past ten years, you will be ineligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. The actual amount you need to have worked in the past ten years varies depending on your age.
A worker in his early 30s needs to have worked and paid into FICA at least five of the past ten years to be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. If you have not done so, you are generally not eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) payments.
There is a notable exception to this rule, however. If you can prove that your disability started before the date that your Social Security Disability Insurance ran out (known as the Date Last Insured, or DLI), you may still be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. If there is any confusion regarding your eligibility based on the amount of time you have worked or how long it has been since you have worked, you should contact the Social Security Administration (SSA).
You prove that your disability began before your date last insured by producing medical records which document the onset of your disabling condition, clearly showing that the disability began while you were still under coverage. This can be a lengthy process, and you should be prepared to make several appeals before your claim is accepted. You should consult the Blue Book to determine what medical evidence you will need for your claim.
Further Reading: What Conditions Qualify For Disability?
As always, if you do not feel that the SSA has come to the right decision, it’s a good idea to consult a disability lawyer who is well versed in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) law. Your chances of having your Social Security Disability claim accepted improve considerably when you have adequate legal representation. Lawyers who work on Social Security Disability claims generally get paid only if they win approval for your claim. Because of this, most Social Security Disability lawyers will not take a case unless there is a good chance that it will prevail.
If you are disabled and unable to work, but are not qualified for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you may still qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on the basis of your disability. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is needs-based, and does not place an emphasis on work history. You will still need to demonstrate that you are disabled, but you will not need to have worked five out of the last ten years to qualify.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) takes into account your possessions and all other income. In general, you do not qualify if you have more than $2,000 worth of personal possessions (excluding one vehicle and your residence). Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), on the other hand, does not take into account your personal possessions or certain forms of other income, though having additional income may have some tax implications. Apply for SSI or apply for SSDI, you can file a claim on the SSA's website.
Further Reading: What Is SSI?