Understanding Work Credits and Social Security Disability Eligibility

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays out benefits to people who are no longer able to work because of a disability or medical condition. However, not everyone is covered by the SSDI program. To obtain benefits through SSDI, you must be ‘insured’.

In contrast to Supplemental Security Income (SSI), not everyone can file for SSDI benefits. You must have paid a sufficient amount into the program. When you earn wages and pay FICA taxes, you also receive ‘work credits’ that will qualify you for coverage under SSDI. 

Work Credits and SSDI: Understanding the Basics

The Social Security Administration (SSA) tracks everyone’s work history. The agency has records on how much you have earned in wages and paid in federal taxes. Every time an employee earns qualifying income, they receive a work credit. 

Under federal law, you can receive a maximum of four work credits each year. To get a single work credit in 2020, an employee must have earned at least $1,410 in qualifying income. To get all four credits in 2020, an employee must earn $5,640 in qualifying income. 

How Many Work Credits for Social Security Disability

How many work credits you need to qualify for SSDI coverage depends, largely, on your age. Workers under the age of 30 may need up to 18 work credits—meaning they need a maximum of 4.5 years of work history. 

Workers between the ages of 31 and 41 generally need 20 work credits, or five years of qualifying employment. From there, the number of work credits needed for eligibility gradually rises until age 62, where it reaches the maximum of 40 work credits. In other words, anyone with 10 years of work history should satisfy the SSA’s work credit requirement, regardless of their age. 

If you have never filed for SSDI or SSI benefits and you have questions about the process, you are certainly not alone. Do not hesitate to get help filing your initial application. A Social Security disability lawyer will help you get access to the full benefits that you are entitled to under the law.