The amount of time you need to work to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) depends on which program you are applying for, your age, and how much you earn. Some disability programs require you to work and earn a certain number of work credits to qualify for monthly payments. When you work, you pay FICA taxes that support the Social Security program and give you the right to draw benefits. In return, you receive work credits—up to a maximum of four per year.
The disability attorneys at Berger and Green can help you understand the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) work requirements. Call 412-661-1400 to schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers.
Which Disability Programs Require Work Credits?
The SSA’s disability programs include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Only the SSDI program requires a minimum number of work credits to qualify. This program bridges the gap between when a worker suffers an injury or illness that leaves them unable to work and when they reach retirement age. SSI is an income-based program that does not include a work credit requirement, but asks you to meet strict limits on income and assets to qualify.
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How Many Work Credits Do I Need to Qualify for SSDI?
The number of work credits you need to qualify for SSDI benefits depends on the age you are when you suffer an injury or illness the SSA considers disabling. Generally, you will need to work for at least five years to earn 20 credits. These years need not be consecutive, but you will need to earn at least 20 credits during the decade immediately preceding your application for disability benefits.
Since it is unlikely workers who suffer a disability at a young age have 10 years of work experience, they do not need to meet this same standard. The SSA requires you to earn six work credits in the previous three years if you apply for benefits before age 24.
If you are between the ages of 24 and 31, you will need half the number of credits available to you since you turned 21. This means if you are 29 years old, you need to have work credits for four years of work—or 16 credits.
We understand how complicated this seems. We can help you determine how many work credits you have available to you based on your work history. With our help, you can reduce your risk of a non-medical denial.
How Do I Earn Work Credits for the SSDI Program?
When you work and earn wages, your employer deducts taxes and pays into Social Security based on your earnings. In 2017, you receive one work credit for every $1,300 you earn—up to the annual maximum of four. This means if you make at least $5,200 in 2017, you will earn the maximum number of work credits possible. Even if you only work part time, it is likely you will meet this goal.
If you are self-employed or a member of the military, you earn your work credits the same way. Any job where you pay into Social Security offers work credits in return. There are special rules for some industries that may not pay FICA or Social Security taxes. We can help you understand if you have the work credits necessary based on your age, work history, and industry.
How Can Work Credit Rules Lead to a Benefit Denial for Some Workers?
It may seem relatively easy to meet the work credit requirements for SSDI, but we see many people who receive a denial based on their work history. Many of these workers took time away from the workplace or did not earn credits recently enough to qualify.
Imagine this situation. A young woman worked from age 21 to age 31, earning a full-time wage and full work credits for each of these 10 years. She then took six years off, until her children started school. She returned to work in 2012, but suffered a car accident injury in 2016 that prevented her from working a job and earning a living. Because of this, she only has 16 of the required 20 work credits from the last 10 years. She will not qualify for benefits.
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How Can I Reach a Disability Attorney?
The lawyers at Berger and Green can do the complex calculations to ensure you have enough work credits for disability benefits. We will consider your age, how much you earned, and when you earned it.
Our help does not stop there, however. It takes much more than work credits to receive approval for SSD benefits. We can help you understand all the criteria for each program and offer you resources and support to get the disability benefits you need.
If you need help filing a claim for SSDI or SSI—or if the SSA already denied your claim—call the disability attorneys at Berger and Green today at 412-661-1400. We offer complimentary consultations.