Do I need to be fully insured to get Social Security benefits?

Yes, as a general rule you must be fully insured under the Social Security program before most benefits can be paid.  That means you must have worked both long enough and recently enough to qualify for disability benefits.  In most cases, you must be fully insured and have earned at least 20 credits during the last 10 years.

Exceptions apply for those who are disabled and under age 31.  In those situations, you have disability insured status and can get Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) with fewer than 20 credits.  For example, if you are disabled before age 24, you generally need 6 credits in the last three years before you became disabled.

Make sure that your earnings records are accurate by comparing your earnings on your Wage and Tax statement (W-2) to the earnings record on your Social Security statement. You can verify your earnings on a ”my Social Security” account.  For more information, go to

How do I become insured for Social Security benefits?

You earn work credits and become insured for Social Security retirement, SSDI disability, and survivor’s coverage for you and your family when federal taxes are withheld from your covered gross work earnings.  This federal tax is called “FICA” for the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, a law that funds both Social Security and Medicare.  Both you and your employer pay a portion of the total FICA tax.  In 2019, you must earn $1,360 in covered earnings to get one credit and $5,440 to get the four credits for the year.  For more information, refer to this SSA publication on “How You Earn Credits” at

There are a few wage earners who are not covered by FICA, such as railroad employees who are covered by a separate pension system.

Self-employed workers are required by law to pay taxes for Social Security and Medicare through “SECA” which is the “Self-Employment Contributions Act”.  Self-employed workers pay both the worker and employer contributions. The employer’s share of the tax counts as a deductible business expense.

Can I still get Social Security disability benefits if I am disabled but not insured?

Although you can only get SSDI benefits if you are insured, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if you are disabled.  SSI is a needs-based program for which insured status is not required.  You must meet income and resources limits to be eligible for SSI.

Talk to a Social Security Representative

Talk to a Social Security representative before you apply for Social Security disability benefits. A representative can help you know your insured status for SSDI, and can provide you with information about income and resource limits for SSI.

Disability representatives at Cardea Disability, LLC are available to talk to you about your case. 

For a free consultation, call us today at 334-440-6261 or use our website contact form to send us a message.