What Is the Date Last Insured (DLI) for Disability Benefits?

If you haven't worked for a while, it's very important to know the date you are last insured for Social Security.

The "date last insured" (DLI) is the last date that an individual is eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). In order to receive SSDI, an individual must pass the "recent work" test. To pass this test, you must have worked 20 of the last 40 quarters, which is more simply stated as five of the past ten years. (The rules are a bit different if you are under 30; see our article on the required work credits for SSDI.)

Look Back Period

Generally, Social Security will look back ten years from the date the applicant filed a disability claim to determine an individual’s DLI. The date that an individual stops working due to disability is not relevant in determining the ten-year look back period; instead, the date of filing an application is used.

Date Last Insured

If you worked your whole life and then stopped, your DLI depends on the date you stopped working (at a job that pays into the Social Security system through FICA taxes). For instance, if you worked up until five years ago, your DLI would be today. If you worked up until four years ago, your DLI would be one year from now. If you haven't worked for six years, your DLI was one year ago.

Applying for SSDI After Your DLI

If you apply for SSDI after your DLI has gone by, you won't be able to get SSDI disability benefits. There are two exceptions to this rule, however. You are still eligible for disability benefits if:

  • your medical evidence can show that the onset of your disability was prior to your DLI, or
  • you received a protective filing date before you filed your disability application, and that date is before your DLI.

Unfortunately, because many disabilities do not have a singular event that causes them, establishing a disability onset date can be difficult and requires medical evidence to support that onset date. Often an applicant's medical record will not contain enough evidence to show that the onset date was a certain number of years ago. However, if you applied for SSDI at an earlier time, sometimes an SSDI lawyer will be able to reopen your old Social Security claim for evidence of an early disability onset date.

If your onset date is determined to have occurred before your DLI, you still have to fulfill the recent work requirement. But in this case, the ten-year look back period will start with your onset date of disability. For instance, if you quit work six years ago because you were in a bad accident, but you didn't apply for SSDI until today, the ten-year look back period would start six years ago. As long as you worked a total of at least five years (20 quarters) in the time period ranging from sixteen years ago until six years ago, you would be insured for SSDI.

DLI Doesn't Apply to SSI

If you file a disability claim after your DLI and you can't establish that your disability onset date was before your DLI, you may still be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits -- if you have low assets and income. For more information, see our overview of SSI.