In order to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, applicants must have worked long enough to reach insured status with the Social Security Administration (SSA). To reach this status, you must have worked long enough during your career to contribute a certain amount to the Social Security system through taxes deducted from your paychecks. The SSA uses a system of work credits to determine whether you have obtained this minimum level of contribution and whether you qualify for SSD.

What are work credits?

The SSA decides whether you have worked long enough to qualify for SSD benefits by converting your job earnings into work credits. This amount is calculated annually and is accumulated over the course of a person’s career. When you work and pay your Social Security taxes, you can earn up to four work credits each year.

The amount of earnings it takes to earn a work credit changes over time. Credits are also based on your total wages and income during the year, no matter when you performed the actual work. Therefore, you could earn your work credits for the year in a short time.

In 2016, you must earn $1,260 to earn one credit, or $5,040 to earn the maximum amount of work credits for the year. As a result, it does not take a high amount of earnings to receive credit for a year of paying into the Social Security system. What matters even more for SSD eligibility is how many years you have worked.

How many work credits do I need to qualify for SSD?

The number of work credits needed for SSD benefits depends on the age you were when you became disabled. Generally, applicants need 40 work credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending in the year the applicant became disabled. However, younger disabled workers may qualify for SSD with fewer work credits.

Keep these general rules in mind:

  • Before age 24 – you may qualify for SSD benefits if you earned 6 credits in the 3-year period ending when your disability starts
  • Age 24 to 31 – you may qualify for SSD benefits if you have credit for working half the time between age 21 and the time you become disabled
  • Age 31 or older – generally, you need to have the number of work credits shown in the chart below


What do I do if I don’t have enough work credits?

If you have not worked long enough to qualify for SSD benefits, you may still be eligible for assistance through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. While the SSI program does not have a work requirement, you must still be able to demonstrate financial need.

Are you applying for SSD benefits or have you been denied benefits? Consider the Law Office of The Good Law Group for your representation.