Can a stay-at-home parent seek disability benefits?

A stroke, heart attack, cancer or any other debilitating illness can happen to just about anyone in Tennessee, often without warning. Unfortunately, these illnesses can permanently damage a person’s health. If a person was gainfully employed, but can no longer work due to such an illness, he or she may want to look into applying for Social Securitydisability benefits. However, can a person who wasn’t working when they became ill, such as a wife or husband who did not work, but instead stayed at home to care for the family, seek such benefits?

The answer hinges on whether the applicant was working. If a person is not working, they are not paying Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) taxes. These taxes pay for the Social Security disability program, as well as other programs. A person may not obtain SSD benefits unless they have met an “earnings” test, which takes into account the applicant’s recent employment and the duration of their past employment.

Recent employment, per the Social Security Administration, is defined by the age that the applicant became disabled and when they last paid FICA taxes. The duration of past employment is defined by the age that the applicant became disabled and how long they paid FICA taxes. If a person is without recent employment or a duration of past employment, that person will not qualify for SSD benefits.

Unfortunately, this shows that not everyone will qualify for SSD benefits. However, other programs such as Medicare or Supplemental Security Income may be possibilities to look into, although the details of these programs are beyond the scope of this post. Anyone in the Knoxville area who is unsure as to whether they can apply for SSD benefits may want to seek legal advice, which this post does not provide.

Source: Capital Gazette, “Covering the Bases: Woman needs to contribute to Social Security in order to receive disability,” Amy Rubino, May 8, 2016