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What Are FICA Taxes and How Do They Affect Your Disability Benefits?

If you are permanently disabled and need financial assistance, you might want to consider applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI” or “disability benefits”). SSDI is not a relief system for partial or temporary disabilities or illness. Instead, it is designed to give U.S. workers some financial assistance if they are permanently disabled and unable to work.

Qualifying for SSDI

To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must meet the strict requirements of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”).  This means that in addition to meeting the SSA’s definition of “disabled,” you must have worked long enough and have paid into the federal tax system (FICA taxes) long enough to qualify.

To meet the SSA’s definition of disabled, you must be able to prove that:

  • You cannot do work that you did before;
  • You cannot adjust to any other work because of your medical condition(s); and
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

FICA Taxes

The SSA’s other major requirement pertains to the payment of federal taxes. Specifically, you must have worked at a job where you paid federal taxes. These taxes are paid under the Federal Insurance Contribution Act tax (“FICA”). The law instituting FICA taxes was passed in 1935. Its purpose is to help fund two critical federal programs:  Social Security (which includes funding the Disability Insurance Trust) and Medicare.

Participating employers must withhold FICA taxes from employee paychecks and pay them to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

If you become disabled and apply for SSDI benefits, how much you paid in FICA taxes before you became disabled plays an important role in your disability benefits. T

When you apply for disability benefits, the SSA will convert your FICA into “work credits.” The number of work credits you have is then converted into disability benefits.

For example, applicants who are 31 years or older must have worked for at least 5 of the previous 10 years (or have earned 20 work credits in the past 10 years). Applicants between the ages of 24 and 31 must have worked at least 4 years since they turned 21, or they need to have earned 16 work credits.

Unless you have worked for the required period of time and have sufficiently contributed to the FICA system, you will not be eligible for SSDI benefits—even if you are disabled.

Disability Counsel Here to Help You.   

We know it can be challenging to get awarded disability benefits. But we are up for the challenge. We help our clients get the benefits they deserve. We offer free consultations and we do not get paid unless you win your case. Call us at (225) 465-1232 or email us here.


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