Why can’t I get Social Security disability on my own or my husband’s record?

Question: I am considered disabled by State of Washington doctors, but Social Security has turned me down three times when I applied for disability saying I don’t have enough work points. I am the wife of a retired, disabled veteran who served more than 20 years in the US Navy. I raised three children, one of whom is disabled. How do I get Social Security to accept my disability? Signed: Frustrated and Disabled

Dear Frustrated and Disabled: Social Security’s criteria for disability eligibility are separate and distinctly different from any other authority such as the State of Washington. To be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, you must have earned a minimum number of credits on your own from working and contributing to Social Security, and that work must have occurred recently (you must have worked at least five of the last 10 years). If you did not personally earn the required credits through recent work, you cannot get SSDI benefits. I presume that is what Social Security has determined to be the case for you. And to clarify, you must be totally disabled (rendering you unable to work for at least one year) and that must be confirmed by your medical service providers, who will be contacted by Social Security’s representatives.

For information, SSDI is an individually earned entitlement, thus your husband’s lifetime earnings history applies only to him, and his earnings record does not extend to you for SSDI purposes (in other words, he might be eligible for early SSDI benefits on his own, but his eligibility for those benefits does not make you eligible too).

Nevertheless, if your husband is collecting SSDI benefits and you are caring for your child who became disabled before age 22, or if your husband is collecting SS and any of your children are under age 16, you may be eligible for “child-in-care” spousal benefits. Child-in-care spouse benefits are available at any age, but your husband would need to be collecting either SSDI or his regular SS retirement benefit for you to be eligible for those benefits. And if your husband is collecting SS of any kind, his disabled child (or any minor children under 18) may also be eligible for dependent child benefits from him, subject to the Family Maximum.

So, to answer your specific question about how to get Social Security to “accept your disability,” unless you meet the recent work test and have earned the needed credits on your own as described above, and are totally disabled, you cannot. You may wish to confirm this by discussing your situation with an attorney who specializes in SSDI matters. You can find such an attorney online by searching for “SSDI attorney near me” – just be sure to fully vet any firm you are considering. SSDI attorneys should not charge for an initial consultation, and they will only take your case if they believe you can win (they take their fees from any back SSDI benefits they can secure for you). SSDI attorney fees are also limited by federal law, and seeking such counsel should not result in any out-of-pocket expense for you.