Social Security Disability & SSI Eligibility Requirements

Published on: February 14, 2011 by

Social Security Disability Insurance Eligibility Requirements-Quarters of Coverage

The social security program for workers functions like an insurance plan. There are requirements that a claimant for disability insurance must have: 1) Contributed to the program (paid social security taxes) over a sufficiently long period to be fully insured and 2) Contributed to the program recently enough to have disability insured status.  In short, a worker must have paid social security taxes in order to be insured, just like paying the premiums for a private insurance policy. After stopping work (and therefore no longer paying social security taxes), there will come a time when the claimant's insured status will lapse, just like with a private insurance policy.

Contributions are counted in quarters (3 months) of coverage, abbreviated QC by SSA, with minimum earnings requirements that, since 1978, go up every year. To be fully insured, as a rule, a claimant must have one QC for every calendar year after the year in which he or she turned 21, up to the calendar year before becoming disabled. The rule for disability insured status for those over 31 years old is that they must have 20 quarters of coverage out of the 40 calendar quarters before they become disabled. 20 C.F.R. 404.130. This is referred to as the 20/40 rule. Significant work in five years out of the last 10 years usually satisfies this requirement. For a claimant with a steady work record, insured status will lapse about five years after stopping work. To receive any social security disability benefits, such a claimant will have to prove that he or she was disabled before the date last insured. For those who become disabled before age 31 there is a reduced quarter of coverage requirement.

SSI Eligibility Requirements-Indigency Definitions

The Supplemental Security Income program is a federal welfare program for the disabled, blind and those over 65. In contrast to social security disability, benefits are paid out of general revenues, not out of the social security trust fund. Many states supplement the federal SSI benefit. Thus, the SSI benefit amount varies from state to state. To meet all the requirements to receive SSI a claimant must:

Be disabled using the same definition as is used for the social security disability program

1. Meet the income and asset requirements of the SSI Program

2.  Be a U.S. citizen or fall into the group of limited exceptions to the citizenship rule; and

3.  File an application

The asset limitation beginning in 1989 is $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple. Several assets are excluded, the most significant of which are the home of any value and one car of any value if it is used for work or to obtain medical care. See 20 C.F.R. 416.1210 et seq.

Social Security Retirement-No Expiration of Quarters

Unlike Social Security Disability, earned quarters do not expire for the Social Security Retirement Program. Go to for a full explanation of the retirement program.

If you have questions about Social Security Disability Insurance or SSI visit our website at