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What Are the Work Requirements to Qualify for SSDI?

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The federal Social Security Act provides retirement, disability, dependents, and survivor benefits for qualifying individuals. In order to obtain Social Security benefits, an applicant must have accumulated sufficient “work credits.” Work credits are earned each year of gainful employment. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are thus meant to repay and provide care for workers who contributed to Social Security while employed.

If you are unable to work, you need SSDI benefits to sustain your medical care and other basic needs. Continue reading to learn about the work requirements for Social Security Disability. If you need help obtaining Social Security Disability benefits, or for assistance responding to a benefits claim denial, call our dedicated Southern California disability lawyers.

Earning Work Credits

Social Security quantifies your work history in terms of work credits. To earn work credits, you must work and pay into Social Security. A worker can earn up to four (4) work credits per year, depending on how much they worked and earned. The minimum income required to earn each credit adjusts each year.

As of 2022, a worker will earn one credit for each $1,510 of earnings, up to a maximum of four credits per year. The same rule applies to both employed and self-employed workers. Special rules apply for workers who earn less than $400 per year.

Minimum Work Credits Needed for Social Security Benefits

The amount of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits varies depending on your age.

Under most circumstances, an applicant must have worked for at least 10 years, earning a minimum of 40 credits, to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits. To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, workers aged 31 or older generally must have earned at least 20 credits (or five years of work) in the 10 years immediately before their disability began.

Younger workers can qualify for disability with fewer work credits. Workers who become disabled before the age of 24 can obtain disability benefits if they earned at least six work credits in the three years prior to the onset of their disability. Workers who become disabled between the ages of 24 and 30 must have earned credits for half the time between age 21 and the onset of the disability. For example, a worker who becomes disabled at age 27 must demonstrate at least three years of work credits, or 12 credits.

To qualify for SSDI benefits, the worker must have worked recently. Typically, SSDI applicants must have worked five of the prior ten years to qualify. Workers who work intermittently but have earned income over the past couple of years can typically qualify; workers who took the last six or seven years off may not qualify.

Not all jobs qualify. Certain federal workers hired before 1984 may not qualify, nor do certain state and local government hires or railroad workers. Work in those jobs may not count towards the Social Security work requirements as those employers have chosen not to participate in Social Security. Talk to your Social Security benefits attorney to make sure your work qualifies you for benefits.

Call Today for Help Obtaining the Disability Benefits You Need

For help collecting disability benefits or appealing a disability benefits denial in Southern California or statewide, call the thorough and successful Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSDI/SSI) attorneys of Drake & Drake at 818-624-4695.

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