The Social Security Administration(SSA) tracks every workers’ earnings over their lifetime and converts these to credits used to determine eligibility for various benefits programs. To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which applies to workers who no longer are physically able to work, you must have accumulated enough Social Security disability quarters of credit or work credits. To understand what these credits are and how they work, read on.

Quarter of Coverage Defined

A “quarter of coverage” is a legal term and the basic unit used to determine an individual worker’s eligibility for insurance under the Social Security program. A quarter of coverage also is referred to as a Social Security credit, credit or QC.
  • Before 1978: Workers were credited with one credit for each three-month period in which wages of $50 or more were earned, or self-employed individuals were credited four credits for every year in which $400 or more of self-employment income was earned.
  • For 1978: One credit was credited for each $250 of a worker’s total wages and self-employment income, up to a maximum of four credits for the year.
  • After 1978: The amount of earnings needed to earn one credit changes automatically based on the national average wage index.

Earning Credits in 2019

Quarters of credit are based on your total wages and net self-employment income earned throughout the year, no matter which quarter during the year you did the work. You can get a maximum of four credits each year, though you might earn enough for all four in a much shorter length of time. In 2019, you must have $1,360 in covered earnings to get one Social Security credit and $5,440 to get all four credits for the year.

Credits are earned only for wages and net self-employment income subject to the 12.4 percent Social Security tax; for employees, the employer pays half the tax.

How Credits Work in Determining SSDI Eligibility

The exact requirements for number of credits needed to be insured under SSDI benefits vary depending on your age at the time you become disabled. Most workers must have worked for the equivalent of at least five of the 10 years before becoming disabled in order to be insured, since 20 credits earned in the prior 10 years are required. An exception to this 20-credit minimum applies to the legally blind.
The number of credits needed for each age group are below:
  • Disabled before 24 years of age: You must have six credits earned in the three-year period before your disability starts.
  • Disabled between 24 and 31 years of age: You may qualify for SSDI if you have half the number of maximum credits possible for working between age 21 and the age you become disabled. For example, if you become disabled at age 25, you would need eight credits out of the past four years, a maximum of 16 credits.
  • Disabled at age 31 through 42: You need at least 20 credits.
  • Disabled at age 43 through 61: The number of necessary credits increases by one each year, ranging from 21 to 39 minimum credits.
  • Disabled at age 62 or older: You must have earned at least 40 credits over your lifetime, with 20 of those earned during the past 10 years.

Do you need help understanding and navigating the process of applying for Social Security Disability? Consider the Good Law Group for your representation. Call #(847) 577-4476 or complete our form for a complimentary case evaluation today.