SSA Disability is an insurance program. To qualify, an individual must have paid
the premiums, which are Federal Insurance Contributors Act (FICA) or self-
employment taxes. If the individual has not worked for an employer who paid
and withheld FICA and has not filed and paid self- employment taxes, then this
individual has not paid the premiums and is not insured.
Unlike most private insurance, one does not lose coverage as soon as the
premiums stop being paid. An individual is insured under SSA Disability if they
have paid into the system for a certain number of quarters in the last five to
ten years. The calculations are complicated, but there is a simple principle to
follow. Any worker who has become disabled should file with the SSA as soon
as possible. Someone who has worked steadily for five years or more will be
insured for five years after they stop working. If the person has a less
consistent work history, or has periods of work where FICA was not paid, then
the “date last insured” may come sooner than five years.
SSI is the program for the poor. Eligibility for this program does not run out
because the patient has not been working. However, these benefits are
available to individuals who are also receiving SSA Disability if they have little
other income. Since neither program is particularly generous, it is not good to
allow the insurance to lapse just because SSI is available.