Serving Central California Since 1995

QUESTION: I am a 57-year old woman with severe depression and anxiety. I can barley get out of the house to even pick up my mail. My doctor says I can’t work. I tried to file for Social Security Disability, but the local office said I don’t qualify for any benefits. In fact, they would not take an application because I didn’t work enough, and my husband makes too much money. Are they right?

ASK THE ADVOCATE: First of all as a reminder, Social Security is NOT an entitlement. But these benefits are not guaranteed. There are four groups of people that will not qualify for benefits. What we are talking about here are benefits for retired workers and some disabled workers.

Social Security is a program that awards benefits through work. Earn 40 lifetime work credits, of which a maximum of four can be earned per year, and you’ll guarantee yourself these protections and a retired worker benefit when you retire. Earn 40 in the last 15 years for disability for benefits.

1. One of the most common reasons to not receive a Social Security retired worker benefit is simply not hitting the required 40 lifetime work credits needed to earn one. Some folks drop out of the labor force and become full-time parents or perhaps caretakers for a sick parent or friend. Whatever the reason, not accruing enough work credits can disqualify someone from receiving a retirement benefit. 40 quarters in the last 20 is required for disability.

2. Despite what you might have heard, undocumented immigrants aren’t eligible for a Social Security benefit. Period. What you might be thinking of is Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a program run by the SSA, but funded in a completely different way. SSI can be paid to asylum seekers, refugees, and people admitted for lawful permanent residence. But make no mistake — an SSI payment is not a traditional Social Security benefit. It is a federal welfare program administered by the Social Security Administration.

Some undocumented workers do contribute to Social Security. They might use a fake Social Security number (SSN) or a friend’s SSN to get paid and with that payroll tax is deducted. New American Economy found that undocumented workers paid $13.3 billion into Social Security in 2016, and these workers will never receive a dime of this money back.

3. Pension plans, such as state and local government workers, typically do not also contribute to Social Security. This pension takes the place of the Social Security benefit.

4. Workers who meet the required 40 lifetime work credits may not collect a Social Security benefit if they die before they reach 62 (for early retirement from Social Security).

So, the answer in your case is, you probably are in the first example having not worked enough in the right time frame. If your husband makes more than roughly $1,600 per month from wages SSI is also not an option.