Are There Options For Me To Acquire Social Security Credits If I'm Disabled?

Sep 13 2020 - 8:57am

Hi Larry,

I am a 63-year-old female on long term disability from my US company, where I stopped working in 2007 due to a medical chronic condition. I have only 24 work credits which, obviously, do not qualify me to receive US social security benefits when my long-term disability expires at 65, in less than 2 years.
I am a dual US-Canadian citizen who also worked in Canada for 3 years. If I apply for benefits in the US, I believe that, even with my 3 years of work in Canada, I would still be a little short of the 40 credits required to receive benefits.
I have few questions and I hope you can guide me in the right direction:
1. Are there any options available to me, being on long term disability, to meet the minimum required 40 credits and receive the benefits in the US, when I reach 65, without having to work for those credits? My medical condition prevents me from holding a job since many days I am stuck in bed without the ability to function properly. My preference would be to apply for benefits in the US if, somehow, it would be possible.
2. Is it worth applying for US benefits now just to see how many credits my years of work in Canada will add to my 24 US credits? At least I would be able to know how many credits I am short. Would that have any negative impact over my existing long-term disability benefits?
3. Since Canada pays retirement benefits after only one year of work (I would receive a very little amount for 3 years of work in Canada), does it make sense to apply for benefits in Canada instead and add the years worked in the US to increase my Canadian benefits?
My husband is 10 years younger than myself and the idea of applying for US spousal benefits, to receive up to 50% of his retirement benefits, is very far in the future.
Assuming that I can receive CPP benefits after I turn 65 until my husband applies for US benefits, can I still apply for US spousal benefits when he retires, in case that amount would be greater than the Canada Pension Plan benefits?
Thank you and best regards,

Hi Camelia,

My expertise is limited to U.S. Social Security benefits, so I can only answer some of your questions. With regard to your first question, the answer is no. The only way that you can acquire U.S. Social Security credits, or quarters of coverage (QCs), is by working for wages or producing self-employment earnings that are subject to Social Security taxes. However, it's possible to qualify for Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits with fewer than 40 QCs. Basically, the younger that a person is when when they become disabled, the fewer the number of QCs required for SSDI insured status.

I don't know whether or not you would have the necessary QCs to qualify for SSDI benefits or a totalization disability benefit, but you could certainly apply for benefits in order to find out. I can't tell you whether or not that might affect your current long term disability (LTD) benefits, but many LTD policies have provisions for offsetting the LTD payments by the amount of any SSDI benefits for which a person qualifies. I have no idea what the terms of your LTD plan are, though.

I can't give you any advice with regard to Canadian (CPP) benefits, but if you do qualify for and collect CPP benefits then the only way that it would affect your U.S. benefits is if you qualify for non-totalized benefits from both programs. In other words, if either your U.S. benefits or your Canadian pension are totalized based on combined credits from both countries, then your U.S. benefits would not be reduced because of your Canadian pension.

As for potential future spousal benefits, those benefits would not be reduced because of a Canadian pension regardless of whether the Canadian pension is a totalization benefit or a non-totalization benefit.

Best, Jerry