Can I Receive Social Security Disability if I Never Worked in the US?

Social Security is part of a tricky system, with many twists and turns. Typically, you need to work to accrue credits to receive Social Security benefits later in life, but there are plenty of ways you might still be able to receive Social Security if you never worked. An attorney may be able to help you correctly file for Social Security Disability (SSD or “disability”) benefits, even if you never worked in the United States. If you are seeking Social Security in Arkansas, talk to an experienced Fayetteville AR disability lawyer like Ken Kieklak.

How Does Work History Affect Social Security?

“Social Security” is a broad collection of services offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) of the United States for its citizens. One of the most popular programs the SSA offers is Social Security Disability benefits. These are designed to help injured people or people with severe conditions get financial support and a living wage, even if they are no longer able to work themselves.

In order to qualify for disability benefits, you need to have a disability, under the SSA’s definition. This is a multi-step qualification process that looks at your condition, determines how it affects your life, and decides whether you can still work. Ultimately, in order to qualify as “disabled,” you need to:

  • Have a severe condition that will last longer than a year or is expected to lead to your death;
  • Have a condition listed in the SSA’s list of conditions (or another condition that is as severe);
  • Be unable to perform any “Substantial Gainful Activity” that pays at least $1,170 per month; and
  • Be unable to perform other work duties.

If you are unable to work, need help performing day to day tasks, and need income, you are likely to qualify for SSD. When applying for disability benefits, you should always have an attorney review your application to ensure it is complete and accurate.

In order to get Social Security benefits, you need to accrue “work credits.” You get work credits for each quarter-year that you worked and paid your Social Security FICA taxes. The benefits you are trying to receive will require a certain number of work credits, but you should never be required to have more than 40 work credits. That means that you should be covered for Social Security as long as you spent at least 10 years working (with some timing requirements).

What if you Don’t Work or Worked Internationally?

Especially for older generations who are currently applying for and receiving Social Security, many people might not have worked. Many married couples decide that one spouse will work and the other will stay home, care for children, and keep the home. These couples are not penalized for making this decision, and the non-working spouse may still be able to receive benefits.

In general, when one spouse is currently receiving Social Security Benefits, the other may receive “spousal benefits.” This allows you to receive up to half of the benefits your spouse receives. Depending on the age you start receiving benefits, you may be required to take less than half. If you never worked, and your spouse is deceased, you may also start receiving benefits. These benefits may even start earlier, at age 50 – but may still be reduced for starting early.

If the person seeking disability is a child or young adult with disabilities, they might be able to use their parents’ work credits toward receiving benefits. Because there is no expectation that children have ever worked, there is no way they would already have credits. Some people are also disabled from birth, and have no way of accruing credits. Talk to an attorney about how to receive disability benefits for your child’s disability.

If you worked outside of the United States, you might be able to apply your international work to US Social Security. The US government has agreements with 24 countries around the globe to accept work credits from those countries. Many of these agreements help US citizens working and living abroad to accrue Social Security benefits back in the US, or set rules for how the foreign social security program applies. There are also rules for transferred workers who will work internationally for five years or less. If you are a recent immigrant to the United States and never worked here, your ability to receive benefits will depend on many factors, including whether you have a Social Security Number. Talk to an attorney about your specific case to learn more.

Apply for Disability Benefits

If you or a loved one is considering seeking Social Security Disability, talk to an attorney about your application and eligibility. If you have already been denied Social Security benefits, our lawyers may be able to help fight the SSA to get you coverage. Call Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, today at (479) 316-0438.