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What Is Date Last Insured (DLI) for Social Security?

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
January 18, 2024  ·  4 min read
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Your date last insured (DLI) is the last date you’re eligible to meet the work and earnings requirements necessary to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

DLI can get complicated, but it’s an important concept to understand for SSDI eligibility — and many disability denials are because of DLI issues. By understanding your date last insured, you can submit the correct medical evidence to prove when your disability began. 

What does DLI stand for in SSDI?

DLI stands for “date last insured.” This term refers to the last day after you stop working that you meet the requirements for disability — in other words, the last date you’re eligible to receive SSDI benefits

For most people, their date last insured is about five years after they stopped working. At that point, you will no longer be able to get SSDI disability insurance benefits because you’re no longer “paying into” Social Security with your paychecks. 

Typically, if your DLI is in the past, you are not eligible for Social Security disability benefits. But if it’s in the future, you should be good to go. And after you start receiving benefits, your DLI becomes irrelevant. 

What is the significance of the DLI in SSDI eligibility?

To qualify for SSDI, you need to have the right work history. You earn work credits — a maximum of four credits per year — by working a full-time job. These credits are based on your income. If you don’t have enough credits, you won’t be able to get SSDI. Most disability applicants must have earned 40 work credits total, with 20 of those earned within the most recent 10 years.

This is where your DLI comes in. If you’ve stopped working, you can still be eligible for SSDI for the next five years. But once that five years is up — your date last insured — you will likely no longer be eligible for SSDI. 

The SSA will consider your DLI when they evaluate your Social Security disability claim. To qualify for benefits, your disabling condition must have started before your DLI expires. If you’re applying for disability after your date last insured has passed, you’ll need to prove that your disability onset date started before your DLI. 

How does the SSA calculate the date last insured?

The Social Security Administration will determine your date last insured by reviewing your work history and number of work credits, also known as quarters of coverage. 

The SSA uses the "20/40 rule" to evaluate if you have at least 20 work credits in a 40-calendar quarter period, approximately 10 years of work. Your 40-calendar quarter period ends with the quarter you became disabled. 

The SSA will count back 20 covered quarters from when you last worked, and count forward 40 quarters from that date. If you worked full-time, your DLI will usually end up around five years after you stopped working. 

Remember, you won’t be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance unless you have enough credits or covered quarters. You need to have recent credits, too, with a certain number of your total work credits earned in the most recent years leading up to your DLI. In short, the SSA just wants to make sure you’ve worked at least five out of the last 10 years. 

To check your own DLI, create a mySocialSecurity profile on the SSA’s website and look under your earnings history record. 

Example of date last insured

Let’s say you have earned enough work credits to be technically eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance. You’ve worked five of the last 10 years, and you stopped working in March of 2018. Your date last insured would be five years later — March 31, 2023. 

If you become disabled in May of 2020, you are eligible for SSDI benefits. To qualify, you must be able to prove your disability began before your DLI, which is March 31, 2023. 

Now, let’s say you returned to work in February of 2023. In May, you sustain an injury and become disabled. Unfortunately, you will not qualify for disability benefits based on your earnings since your DLI of March 31, 2023, has passed.

What happens if my disability onset is after the date last insured?

If your disability didn’t start until after your date last insured, the SSA will likely deny your disability application. In some cases, however, you can prove you were eligible for SSDI at the date of disability onset with medical records. You will need supporting evidence, such as a diagnosis date and treatment history.

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What should I do if my benefits were denied because of my DLI?

The Social Security Administration will deny your application if they do not agree with your disability onset date or if your disability began after your DLI. 

In either case, you should file an appeal asking the Social Security Administration to reconsider your SSDI claim. As part of the appeal process, you can submit additional medical evidence to help prove exactly when your disability began. 

If your DLI continues to be an issue with your application, another option is to apply for Supplemental Security Income. The SSI program is intended for low-income individuals who live with a disabling medical condition, and your work history is not an eligibility factor.

Get help with your application

If the Social Security Administration denies your application because of your date last insured, a disability attorney can help. An experienced lawyer can review your disability case and determine the best next steps. If you decide to file an appeal, your lawyer will help gather the medical evidence you need to prove when your disability started. Atticus can provide advice at no cost and connect you with a Social Security disability lawyer. Get started by taking our two-minute disability quiz, and someone from our team will follow up to learn more information about your case.

FAQs about date last insured

How is DLI calculated?

The Social Security Administrations determines your DLI based on your work credits and quarters of coverage. The SSA will review your earned credits, and find your DLI by counting back from the date you stopped working.

Can my DLI change?

Once the Social Security Administration determines your DLI, it becomes "frozen" and does not change. Even if you work status changes, your DLI will remain at a fixed point.

What can I do if my DLI has passed?

If you become disabled and your DLI has passed, you are no longer eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance. You may qualify for Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid coverage.

Does the DLI affect SSI claims?

No, your date last insured does not affect Supplemental Security Income claims. Work credits do not factor into your eligibility for SSI.

Related resources:

Everything You Should Know About Disability Benefits (SSDI and SSI)

By Sarah Aitchison

An Easy-to-Follow Guide to Applying for Disability Benefits

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By Jackie Jakab

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Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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