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I found out the hard way

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I'm sure everyone else probably knows this already, but I did not and it cost me--big--so I thought I'd mention it for anyone else who might not know. I quit working years ago because my husband's work took him out of town constantly and we were seeing so little of each other it was becoming a problem. Although I have been doing volunteer work with children ever since I quit my job, I have not worked a paying job in 17 years.


Social Security has a little rule that could impact you if you are, say, a stay-at-home Mom raising children and suddenly become disabled. I took this directly from the Social Security web site:



How Do I Meet The Earnings Requirement For Disability Benefits?


In general, to get disability benefits, you must meet two different earnings tests:

  • A “recent work” test based on your age at the time you became disabled; and
  • A “duration of work” test to show that you worked long enough under Social Security.

Certain blind workers have to meet only the “duration of work” test.


The table below, shows the rules for how much work you need for the “recent work” test based on your age when your disability began. The rules in this table are based on the calendar quarter in which you turned or will turn a certain age.


The calendar quarters are:

First Quarter:
January 1 through March 31

Second Quarter:
April 1 through June 30

Third Quarter:
July 1 through September 30; and

Fourth Quarter:
October 1 through December 31

Rules for work needed for the "recent work test" If you become disabled ... Then you generally need: In or before the quarter you turn age 24 1.5 years of work during the three-year period ending with the quarter your disability began. In the quarter after you turn age 24 but before the quarter you turn age 31 Work during half the time for the period beginning with the quarter after you turned 21 and ending with the quarter you became disabled. Example: If you become disabled in the quarter you turned age 27, then you would need three years of work out of the six-year period ending with the quarter you became disabled. In the quarter you turn age 31 or later Work during five years out of the 10-year period ending with the quarter your disability began.


The following table shows examples of how much work you need to meet the “duration of work test” if you become disabled at various selected ages. For the “duration of work” test, your work does not have to fall within a certain period of time.




This table does not cover all situations.

Examples of work needed for the "duration of work"test If you become disabled ... Then you generally need: Before age 28 1.5 years of work Age 30 2 years Age 34 3 years Age 38 4 years Age 42 5 years Age 44 5.5 years Age 46 6 years Age 48 6.5 years Age 50 7 years Age 52 7.5 years Age 54 8 years Age 56 8.5 years Age 58 9 years Age 60 9.5 years





In short, if there's a big gap in your employment history right before you become disabled, depending on your age and the duration of your earnings gap, you may not be entitled to ANY SS Disability benefits at ALL.


Ludicrous rule if you ask me. After all, what if you were divorced, or widowed or something? You need to work, but now you are disabled and cannot? No matter how hard you've been working without pay, raising children, keeping house, and all the myriad other things a stay-at-home Mom does, if you have not been working for five years or more, you are no longer entitled to benefits--no matter how long you worked previously and paid in to Social Security.


I worked for over a decade and paid into Social Security the whole time, but because I had not been working for over five years at the time I became disabled, I was not allowed any benefits at all. To regain benefits, I would have to work for five years, earning at least $1,000.00 a year and paying Social Security on the income. Well, if I could do that, I wouldn't need disability in the first place!


Anyway, if this info helps just one person avoid the Earnings Requirement pitfall, I'll be happy. :)

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That's sad on many different levels. 1) That we only value people based on their direct ability to generate money or profits. Anyone who stays at home and dutifully raises the children and tends to the home so that the other can work is fully employed in my opinion. 2) That even with rules like that, I see so many obviously unqualified people getting disability, SSI, Medicaid, foodstamps, etc for drug abuse, alcoholism and the such - even entire families on it - when people such as yourself are disqualified. 3) That we have become such a "by-the-book" society that we can't look at a situation and apply simple common sense and human decency. And on and on.



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Thanks for laying this out so clearly. I am so sorry that you have not been able to qualify for benefits. It should not be so complicated. I wasn't aware of the "recent" work earnings test. My husband qualifed for SS disability last fall.

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I also found out the hard way. I quit my full-time job several years ago to care for my disabled sister after my parents died. I had been home with her for 5-1/2 years when I was diagnosed with Parkinsons at age 56. My symptoms started about 2 years after I quit working, but of course, I did not know what was wrong. I didn't even think about my work record being a problem and filed for benefits right after my diagnosis because there was no way I could hold down a full-time job. Fortunately, I filed 3 months before my benefits expired. Unfortunately, SS will only look at those three months of medical records to determine eligibility even though I have waited almost a year and a half for a hearing (which I still don't have). As anyone who has ever gone through this process knows, you need a whole lot more than three months of medical records to qualify. What a system!!!

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Like many things government, this is ludicrous; so if you worked and paid into the system, then stopped to raise your children, under the recent work test, you're not eligible?

that needs to change!

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