What Are Social Security Disability Work Credits?

When you become disabled, not only do you have to worry about caring for yourself, you have to start considering your finances. If you are unable to work, what are your next steps? Is there anything you can do to ensure that you can continue to provide for yourself and your family? 

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is there to serve as a safety net, helping those who can no longer work to still receive money. However, there are caveats – in order to receive these benefits, there are certain criteria that one must meet. One of these is having a certain amount of work credits, earned by years of working. 

Find out more about your eligibility below. 

How can I earn SSDI work credits?

In order to be eligible for SSDI, you must have a health condition that keeps you from working for 12 months or longer and you must have worked for a portion of your life, and that job must have paid taxes into Social Security. While it is rare to work a job that doesn’t pay into Social Security, it is possible. This can include some state, municipal and county employees, along with some railroad workers. Assuming your job paid into Social Security, you must have earned a certain amount to earn a single work credit. You can earn a total of four (4) work credits per year. The amount varies each year — for 2019, you receive one credit for each $1,360 you earned. Once you earn $5,440, you will have earned the maximum of four credits for the year.

Following that math, you can earn 40 credits simply by working ten years. Throughout the course of your working life, you will likely earn far more credits than you would need. If you work part time or take extended time off work, your credits may be fewer. 

The Social Security Administration also takes into account when you earned your credits, as well. In order to receive your benefits, you must have earned the necessary amount of credits in 3 to 10 years prior to becoming disabled. We’ll dive more into these exact requirements in our next section. 

How Many Work Credits Do I Need to Be Eligible for SSDI Benefits?

In order to determine if you have earned enough credits, the Social Security Administration has created a chart to determine if you are eligible for SSDI benefits

Disabled at age:  Credits needed Years of work (within the last 10 years before you became disabled)
31-42 20 5
44 22 5.5
46 24 6
48 26 6.5
50 28 7
52 30 7.5
54 32 8
56 34 8.5
58 36 9
60 38 9.5
62+ 40 10

If you are not eligible for SSDI benefits based on the chart, you may still apply for Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. This program is intended to help those who are both low income and disabled, so the income of your household must be below certain income limits. Discuss with your lawyer if SSI is an option if you discover you are not eligible for SSDI. 

Do you have questions about your eligibility for SSDI benefits?

Contact Reynolds & Gold. We will help you determine if you are eligible and assist with your application.

Man in wheelchair makes a phone call while writing down notes.An older woman sitting in a wheelchair is working at a lab.