How to Go Back in Time

Artwork: Robin Mead

Sometimes people get in a situation where they want to prove to Social Security that they because disabled at an earlier date. There are two common reasons this can happen:


In order to apply for some forms of Social Security, you need work credits.  Unfortunately, sometimes people wait too long to apply and their work credits expire. If you want to find out if your work credits have expired you can check your Date Last Insured. If your credits have expired, don’t panic, you may still have options. One option is to go back in time. For more options, see the bottom of this page.


If you first became disabled before the age of 22, you may be eligible for a special benefit called Disabled Adult Child Benefits. If you are now over the age of 22, but still want to try to get Adult Disabled Child benefits, you are going to have to go back in time! Read on.


🌸 It’s possible! Michelle discovered that her work credits expired three years ago, but she still got approved: Michelle Goes Back in Time

🌸  If your diagnosis is recent, it still may be possible to get approved for the time period before you were diagnosed. See Michelle’s story above.

🌸 Any medical records you have now, or continue to get will be helpful in establishing that you are disabled. Submit everything you can to Social Security.

🌸 Now there is a catch: Even if they believe you are now disabled, they will still need some kind of proof that this disability started in the past (before your Date Last Insured, or before you turned 22).

🌸 In the ideal world, you will be able to find some kind of record from some time in the past that shows that your condition started at that time, it was severe at that time, and impaired your functioning at that time.

🌸 Ideally, you would like to find some kind of medical records that were created when you were not working (or when you were earning under Substantial Gainful Activity).

🌸 We would strongly suggest that you to track down and get those records yourself and give them to Social Security. Your old records will be very important. You cannot rely on Social Security to get all your records, especially from many years ago. How to Collect All Your Medical Records (Keyword: All)

🌸 Make sure you get all treatment notes. Do not look at visit summaries or online records. Also try to get hospital visits, emergency room reports, lab tests, clinics, and anything else possible.

🌸 If you have a lawyer, please make sure to get and read each record yourself. Your lawyer can provide you copies, or you can collect them from doctor’s offices yourself. You will be able to spend much more time and care combing through your records than your lawyer will.

🌸 Once you have your records, it is great if you can look through them and see if you can find proof that you were disabled in the past. Try to look for any medical record or medical test that you believe showed you were disabled at that time. It could be more than one document.

🌸  It is especially helpful if you can find a medical test with a specific outcome, or doctor’s notes that specifically state that your symptoms impaired your ability to walk, sit, stand, lift, or function. If this is not possible, then anything you can find related to your current symptoms may be useful.

🌸 If you find something like this, you can send Social Security a brief written note requesting that they consider these records when determining your the onset date of your disability. List the name and date of the record and attach a copy. If you have a lawyer, you can work with your lawyer to do this. If not, you can do this on your own. Be sure it goes directly to the person handling your case.

🌸 If you wish, you can also attach a list of specific quotes or statements in your past records that you hope they will consider. For example, lab test outcomes, or specific sentences your doctor wrote, or dates when specific symptoms were listed. Be sure to include the name and date of the records your are quoting.

🌸 It is very common for important information to get overlooked in Social Security cases. There are often hundreds of pages of medical records, and the person who is making the decision is never going to spend as much time as you will combing through them. That is why it will help if you can point out anything important.

🌸 If you can’t find any strong records from the past, it is still possible to get approved, but may be more difficult. Just submit anything you possibly can find, and make your current records as strong as possible.

🌸 If you are still seeing the same doctor you were in the past, this can be a big help. Ask that doctor to write a letter stating their medical opinion about when you became disabled and noting that they were your treating doctor at that time.

🌸 If you are not still seeing the same doctor, you can try to track down your old doctor and see if they are willing to write you a letter.

🌸 You can also ask your current doctor to review your old records with you (warning: never hand a doctor a huge pile of papers. Bring a short summary outline or a few of the most important pages). Even if they were not your doctor at the time, your doctor can still write a letter that the symptoms noted at that time are consistent with your current disability. See Michelle’s story above. She did this and it worked!

🌸  Be prepared to be plucky! It is unlikely a lawyer will help you out here, so you may have to do to apply on your own. Don’t worry, many people apply without a lawyer. Most people who post here who their cases at the beginning did it themselves.

🌸 If you already have a lawyer, they may drop you when they realize your work credits have expired, or they may decide to continue the case. Either way, they are never going to do all the good things on this page that you can do for yourself. Once again, be plucky!

🌸  One person also arranged for their doctor to testify at their hearing. The doctor did this by phone. It was a brief phone call that did not impose on the doctor and only took 15 minutes. The doctor explained their medical opinion about when the person became disabled. It worked!

More Tips

Tips from the Disability Secrets website:

🌸  Ask your doctor to address in your medical records what your medical condition was, including your functional limitations, before your DLI.

🌸 If you didn’t see a doctor or get a diagnosis before your DLI, ask your doctor to “infer” how long your physical or mental problems likely affected your ability to function based on your history and current findings.

🌸  Statements from family, friends and others in the community about your problems and how they affected you before your DLI can also be used to support a claim.

Don’t Want to Go Back in Time? 

Going back in time is not your only option! If you do not have enough work credits, there may be other ways you can still apply: How To Apply For Disability if You Don’t Have Enough Work Credits

Learn More

Once again, read Michelle’s story. It’s good! Michelle Goes Back in Time

Applying for disability after your work credits have expired is more difficult than a regular application. It is helpful if you can do everything possible to make the strongest application you can. For new applications, check out: How to Get Approved for Disability the First Time You Apply

If you have already applied or are appealing, check out: How to Greatly, Greatly (Greatly!) Improve Your Disability Application

What Do You Think? 

Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. 

Updated May 2018. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: 

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