Look Back Period

Social Security Attorneys Assisting Individuals throughout Massachusetts

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be a confusing and complicated process. While many attorneys and advisors will focus on your medical history when evaluating your likelihood of success in obtaining disability benefits, it is important not to overlook the importance of an applicant’s work history to his or her SSDI eligibility. Without sufficient work experience and payments into Social Security, benefits may be difficult to acquire no matter the state of one’s medical condition. At Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C., our Social Security lawyers can help Massachusetts residents understand how their work history may be evaluated by the Social Security Administration and how far back federal agencies will inquire.

Understanding the Importance of Prior Work

At first glance, the work history of an SSDI applicant may seem to have little relevance to his or her claim to benefits. Indeed, a lack of work can be indicative of an ongoing medical condition, and thus it can seem confusing that an applicant would be penalized for a lack of work experience. However, the reason for requiring work experience is relatively straightforward. SSDI is a federal benefits program that is made available, in part, through contributions by working Americans through the Social Security taxes taken out of their paychecks. Since SSDI is partially funded and supported through employment taxes, the SSA requires that any SSDI applicant have contributed sufficient payment, or “work credits,” before applying for benefits.

The number of work credits an individual has acquired are reviewed through two tests administered by the SSA, the recent work test and the duration of work test. These tests look at an individual’s short- and long-term work history to evaluate how many quarters an individual has worked and paid Social Security taxes. There is no requirement that an applicant have stayed with any given job for a certain period of time, but whether through fits and starts, or through extended employment, the applicant must have compiled enough work credits to be eligible for SSDI.

The Look Back Period

When evaluating work history under the above-mentioned tests, the SSA does not look at every job an individual has ever had since he or she was a teenager. Instead, the SSA considers only the last 10 years of work history. This is known as the look back period. The look back period only goes back to when an individual was 21 years old, so if an applicant is, for instance, 25, his or her look back period would only extend four years. For applicants who are 31 or older, the look back period will go back the full 10 years.

The look back period extends not from when the applicant claims to have become disabled but from when the actual application for SSDI benefits was received. This is important for individuals who have had a limited work history, since the longer the period of time after developing a disability that one waits to file an application, the harder it may be to establish the necessary work credits to apply for disability. After a certain period of time off work, often around five years, an applicant may find that his or her date last insured has passed, and SSDI is no longer an option.

Discuss Your SSDI Claim with a Massachusetts Lawyer

With the challenges of navigating a disability, time off work, and the requirements of an SSDI application, the last thing that an applicant wants to learn is that his or her application is being denied not because of the merits of the medical condition, but because of a lack of work history during the look back period or because too much time has passed since the last date of employment. At Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C., it is the job of our government benefits attorneys to keep track of these small details for SSDI applicants in Massachusetts and make sure that their applications are finalized and filed while they are still eligible for benefits and have a timely claim. Contact our office at (800) 367-0871 or through our online form. We proudly serve individuals from Suffolk, Plymouth, Essex, Middlesex, and Norfolk Counties, as well as the Merrimack River area and Rhode Island.