What is a "Date Last Insured" (DLI)?

What is a Date Last Insured (or “DLI”)?
By Carolyn J. Shulman, Esq.

If you have applied for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, you may have heard the phrase “Date Last Insured” or “DLI,” as it is abbreviated, and wondered what it meant.

As you may already know, there are two types of Social Security disability benefits:  (1) Supplemental Security Income benefits (abbreviated “SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act and (2) Disability Insurance Benefits (often abbreviated “DIB” or “SSDI”) under Title II of the Act.  SSI benefits are a type of welfare benefit, for individuals who are not only disabled, but who are also financially eligible. Because the DLI does not really pertain to SSI benefits, this blog focuses on Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”).
Title II Disability Insurance Benefits are the type of benefits you can become eligible for when you have worked and paid FICA taxes into Social Security. Those FICA taxes function for wage-earners in much the same way that an insurance premium works.  This is where the DLI comes into play.
When you pay FICA taxes into Social Security, you are paying towards coverage under the Social Security disability insurance and retirement programs, similar to paying premiums on an insurance policy.  In order to be considered “insured” for Social Security disability insurance purposes, you have to have worked and paid FICA taxes for 20 out of the last 40 quarters (or 5 out of the last 10 years).  If FICA taxes have been paid on your wage account for 20 out of the last 40 quarters, you will be “insured” and thus eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits should you become disabled.
 
However, your coverage for disability purposes expires after you stop working and therefore stop paying your FICA taxes. This is similar to when you stop paying premiums on a private insurance policy, and the policy therefore expires. One difference, however, is that for Social Security disability purposes, you will remain covered for approximately five years after you stop paying your FICA taxes.  So, for example, if you have not worked since December 31, 2005, your Date Last Insured would probably be December 31, 2010 (about 5 years after you stopped working).  As such, you would have to prove that your disability began BEFORE December 31, 2010 (your Date Last Insured, or “DLI”).   So in this example, if you became disabled when you stopped working in December 2005, you would be insured because your disability began prior to your DLI.  However, if your disability did not begin until January 1, 2011, which falls after the DLI, you would not be eligible for Disability Insurance Benefits.
Another important thing to note is that if the Social Security Administration finds that you became disabled before your DLI and begins paying you disability benefits, your benefits will not suddenly stop being paid on your Date Last Insured. The DLI is simply the date before which you must be found disabled in order to be eligible for DIB benefits. For further information about DLI and other questions you may have about applying for Social Security disability benefits, please contact the attorneys of Morgan & Weisbrod, experts in the field of Social Security disability law.
 
Carl M. Weisbrod
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Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law
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