Q: I recently tried to apply for Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits.  My local Social Security office told me that I am not insured for SSDI benefits and denied my application, but I worked all of my life and paid taxes until 7 years ago when I suffered a head injury on a construction site.  I don’t understand why I wouldn’t be eligible if I paid into Social Security for all those years. Is there something I can do?

A: Yes.  Social Security Disability (SSDI) works like any other type of insurance you can buy. As long as you have paid enough into the system through taxes from working, you are “insured” for SSDI benefits if you become unable to work due to a disability. However, just like if you stopped paying premiums for health insurance, that eligibility will run out eventually if you stop paying into the system. The general rule is that your eligibility or “insured status” runs out after five years once you stop paying Social Security taxes. What often happens in cases like yours is that the worker at your local Social Security office looks you up in the computer and sees that you are not currently insured for benefits and sends you on your way without asking the important follow up questions. It is more important for them to ask when you became disabled for the following reasons. In your situation, I can assume that you went out of work in 2006, and that you were last insured for benefits at some point in 2011 (5 years later), leaving you currently uninsured for SSDI. However, you are still eligible for SSDI benefits if you can prove that you became disabled while you were still insured for benefits. So, if we can prove that you were totally disabled before your insured status ran out in 2011, then you absolutely have a claim for SSDI. This shouldn’t be an issue since a traumatic injury put you out of work in 2006. We would gather all of the medical evidence from that accident to support your claim.  It is because of these obscure legal issues and misinformation given by Social Security that it is always important to consult an attorney in the filing of these claims.