You can only receive Social Security disability benefits if you have paid enough into the Social Security system. The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines whether you qualify based on the number of work credits you have earned and your age.
Each year, work credits are calculated from your income taxes. The amount that you must earn before earning a credit is re-evaluated and adjusted as needed according to the average wage index—the constant being that you can only earn four credits in one year, no matter how large your income.
Work Credits Needed for People Age 31 and Older
For applicants born after 1929 who became disabled from age 31 to 61, the number of work credits you need will change every couple of years. To illustrate:
- Ages 31–42: 20 credits are needed
- Age 44: 22 credits are needed
- Age 46: 24 credits are needed
- Age 48: 26 credits are needed
- Age 50: 28 credits are needed
- Age 52: 30 credits are needed
- Age 54: 32 credits are needed
- Age 56: 34 credits are needed
- Age 58: 36 credits are needed
- Age 60: 38 credits are needed
- Ages 62 or older: 40 credits are needed
Keep in mind that as long as you aren’t applying due to blindness, at least 20 work credits must have been earned in the ten years prior to filing.
Work Credits Are Just One Important Piece of Social Security Disability Eligibility
Once you determine that you have the necessary work credits to apply for Social Security disability, you will need to prove that you are eligible for benefits because you have a qualifying disability that will keep you from working for 12 months or longer or that is expected to be fatal.
Applying for Social Security disability benefits can be confusing, but it is important to your future. If you have questions about Social Security disability eligibility or the claims process, we encourage you to contact us directly to schedule an initial consultation. You can also request a FREE copy of our book, Social Security Disability: What You Need to Know to learn about protecting your rights.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.