How long do I have to work before I am eligible for disability?
The length of time you need to have worked in order to qualify for disability will vary depending on your age. Suffering from an impairment that prevents you from working is not the only qualification the Social Security Administration (SSA) examines when determining who is eligible for benefits.
When it comes to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the SSA requires you to work long enough to meet a minimum threshold based on your age. This ensures you paid into the Social Security system through your employment taxes for several years before drawing benefits.
The disability lawyers at Berger and Green understand how scary it can be when you cannot work and need income to support your family and pay your bills. We can help you determine if you qualify, offer advice during the application process, and navigate the appeals process for you if necessary. Give us a call today at 412-661-1400 and set up a time to talk with one of our Pittsburgh disability attorneys.
How does the SSA determine how much I worked?
The SSA awards all workers who reach a certain income threshold a work credit. For 2017, you receive a work credit each time you earn $1,300. You can earn a maximum of four work credits a year, meaning you will receive the full amount possible after earning just $5,200 in 2017.
For people who worked full time before their accident or illness led to a disability, this total often seems incredibly low. Those who worked part time are often surprised to see they qualify based on only working a few hours a week. This is one reason it pays to always look into the qualifications of a Social Security program instead of just assuming you do not qualify.
It is important to note that you only earn work credits based on earned income. This means if you have income that you do not pay Social Security and other employment taxes on, you may not have enough work credits to qualify. Pension payments and income from investments, for example, will not earn work credits.
While the SSA sets a fairly low threshold for earning work credits, how much you make matters in another very important sense. They will use the average of your earnings over the last few years to determine your benefit amount. This means the more you made, the bigger your monthly SSDI check will be.
How many work credits do I need to qualify for SSDI benefits?
In most cases, the SSA requires you to earn 20 work credits in the last decade to qualify for SSDI benefits. However, this total may vary based on your age. Younger workers under age 31 generally require fewer credits.
Workers Age 31 and Over
Anyone over the age of 30 requires 20 work credits to draw SSDI. The SSA also requires that you earned these credits by working any five of the last 10 years before you suffered your disabling injury or illness.
This means if you worked five years ago and then took five years off to raise children, you may still qualify.
Workers Under Age 24
If you suffered an illness or accident that left you disabled before you turned 24 years old, you need at least six work credits—roughly equivalent to one-and-a-half years of work—earned in the past three years to qualify for SSDI benefits.
Workers Over Age 24 but Under Age 31
When you suffer a disabling health condition between the ages of 24 and 31, the SSA requires credits for half of the time between age 21 and the date your disability began. If, for example, you became disabled at age 27, you would need credits for at least three of the last six years, or 12 work credits.
What if I do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI?
We can help you determine if you have enough work credits or worked recently enough to qualify for SSDI benefits. If you do not, we may be able to help you apply for another disability program. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits do not require work credits to qualify.
Instead, the SSA designed SSI to help Americans with a clear, demonstrated financial need. Only those with extremely low income and few resources qualify for this program. In addition, you must suffer from a qualifying disability or be at least age 65.
In 2017, you cannot make more than $735 per month for an individual or $1,103 for a couple to qualify for SSI benefits. You also must have less than $2,000 in resources for an individual or $3,000 for a couple. It is important to note, though, that not all income or resources count against these totals.
How can I reach a Pittsburgh disability attorney at Berger and Green?
The disability lawyers at Berger and Green can help you calculate your work credits and determine if you may qualify for SSDI benefits. We can offer guidance and review your initial application for benefits, or we can help you navigate the appeals process if you receive denial letter.
Call us today at 412-661-1400 to learn more about our available services or to discuss your appeal.