In many of my cases the Social Security Earnings Record is an issue in and of itself. It isn’t that Social Security is getting it wrong. It is that the individuals have not checked to see that it is right. Having an incorrect earnings record can hurt in many ways. In a SSDI case, a claimant needs to be “insured” (have sufficient quarters of coverage from earnings) in order to be found eligible to collect disability insurance. If your earnings record does not accurately reflect all of your earnings, you may not be considered insured. You might loose out on a benefit that you might otherwise be eligible for.
In both SSI and SSDI cases, the issue of earnings arises at the first step of the disability evaluation. The adjudicator determines if the claimant is working and if so, then determines whether it is substantial gainful activity. (In 2014, substantial gainful activity (“SGA”) was equivalent to earnings of $1070 a month, for a non-blind person. In 2022 it is $2260.) It is not uncommon in a disability case for a claimant to have stopped working but then again resume working at a reduced level of hours. If the person is making over $2260 (in 2022 dollars) he or she is not considered disabled. (There are exceptions to this, of course.) The adjudicator looks to the earnings record as well as other earnings information to make this determination.
The earnings record also comes up at the third step in disability evaluation. At that step, the adjudicator is determining what kind of work you did in the past. The adjudicator looks back to the last 15 years. I have seen cases in which employment was listed that my client did not perform, or vice versa, employment was not listed but my client had performed it.
It is in your best interest to obtain your earnings record and check it. There are two ways of doing this. The first is to go online and set up what Social Security calls “My Social Security.” After you create your account, you may obtain an online earnings record. This will not be a detailed record but you can see the years of your employment and check to see if the amounts listed are correct. There is no charge to obtain your record online.
If you would like to obtain a detailed earnings statement which will list years and names of employers, you must complete SSA Form 7050-F4, Request for Social Security Earnings Information. The Social Security Administration charges $102.00 for this request.
With a case that is at the hearing stage, we normally do not see earnings information in the record until a few weeks before the hearing if at all. Sometimes I have been at the hearing and the Judge orders a new report to be run right then. We then find out too late that there are errors in the record. With Social Security’s expanded online access, we now have the capability to check online and obtain at least the basic information. We all should be doing so, even if we are not applying for disability. It is important to make sure the earnings record is correct.