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Work Credits and Qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance


Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program offered through the Social Security Administration (SSA) to provide financial assistance for those who have become disabled and are unable to work. Upon application to the SSA, if a worker can show that his/her condition has so affected his ability to continue his/her current employment, then that worker can receive compensation in the form of monthly SSDI benefits. However, the regulations controlling approval are stringent and retaining the services of an attorney experienced in SSDI disability benefits can be crucial to ensuring the applicant has a promising chance to receive the benefits he/she needs. One qualifying factor the SSA reviews is whether an applicant has a sufficient number of work credits, a prerequisite to approval. A discussion of the work credit requirement, as well as how work credits are determined, will follow below.

The Work Credit Requirement

To be eligible to receive SSDI, an applicant must have “Insured Status for Social Security,” meaning he/she must have worked enough during the years preceding the filing of the SSDI application and have contributed a specific amount to the Social Security system. Generally, the SSA will look to see if the applicant has enough work credits, which are based on the applicant’s earnings. While this amount changes annually, for 2018, a worker must earn $1320 to gain one work credit, with a possibility of four work credits maximum over the course of a year.

The Determining Tests

An applicant becomes eligible for SSDI benefits when he/she has earned a predetermined number of work credits. Further, in order to meet this predetermined number, the applicant must satisfy two tests – the Recent Work Test and the Duration of Work Test.

The Recent Work Test focuses on when the work occurred, and includes:

  • For those who become disabled after 42 years of age, they must have earned one work credit for each calendar year from the age of 21 to the year before the onset of the disability. Forty is generally the number most workers need to qualify;
  • For those who become disabled between ages 31 and 42, they must have earned a minimum of 20 work credits;
  • For those who become disabled between ages 24 and 30, they must have worked half the time from the age 21 through the quarter the disability began; and
  • For those who become disabled before the age of 24, they need only six credits earned during the three-year period ending with the quarter in which the disability began.

The Duration of Work Test focuses on how long an applicant has worked. Essentially, an applicant must have worked for a specific number of years, or have earned a minimum number of credits, to qualify for SSDI. The table below sets out the minimums:


Age at which Applicant has Become Disabled Minimum Credits Needed Number of Years Worked
21-24 6 1.5
24-31 6-18 1.5-4.5
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

Get Help

If you are considering filing for SSDI benefits, but are curious about the requirements, contact a disability benefits attorney as soon as possible. Submitting a claim for SSDI benefits with the help of an experienced disability benefits attorney can be the difference between acceptance and denial, or a long, drawn-out appeal. The legal team at Farrell Disability Law has the experience to help you win benefits. We will analyze your claim, and help you develop a strategy to get you the benefits you deserve as soon as possible. Contact our Jacksonville office today.


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