How Many Years Do You Have to Work to Qualify for SSDI?

By  //  April 8, 2021

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The Social Security Administration provides two types of disability benefits for workers who become unable to work. The first one is Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is based on financial need.

The other one is the more standard Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a fund that also pays retirement benefits.

Qualifying for Work Credits 

Your disability income is based on your employment history as determined by the number of work credits that you have earned during your working years. This is the amount deducted from your paycheck for Social Security. As an employee, you earn money each year, you pay your taxes, and you receive work credits that range in number from one to four.

The credits awarded are automatically calculated based on your earnings. For example, qualifying for four credits in 2016 required an income of $1,260 per work credit. You must earn a certain amount in a given year to qualify for any credits.

Ordinarily, you must qualify for 20 work credits within the past 15 years to qualify for disability insurance payments, but the SSA does make exceptions for younger workers who haven’t been that long in the workforce.

If you haven’t reached your 31st birthday yet, it’s unfair to expect you to earn 20 work credits within the last 15 years, so different rules apply. If you’re 23 years old or younger, you could receive SSDI payments if you earned six credits within three years before your disability occurred.

If you are aged between 24 and 30, you must have worked at least half of the time between the onset of your disability and age 21.

You can look up the breakdown of work credits required based on age in the following list:

■ Under 24: 6 credits in the 1.5 years before becoming disabled

■ 24-30: 8-18 credits in the 2-4.5 years before becoming disabled

■ 31-42: 20 credits in the 5 years before becoming disabled

■ 44: 22 credits in the 5.5 years before becoming disabled

■ 46: 24 credits in the 6 years before becoming disabled

■ 48: 26 credits in the 6.6 years before becoming disabled

■ 50: 28 credits in the 7 years before becoming disabled

■ 52: 30 credits in the 7.5 years before becoming disabled

■ 54: 32 credits in the 8 years before becoming disabled

■ 56: 38 credits in the 8.5 years before becoming disabled

■ 58: 36 credits in the 9 years before becoming disabled

■ 60: 38 credits in the 9.5 years before becoming disabled

■ 62 and older: 40 credits in the 10 years before becoming disabled.

Getting Geared Up to Appeal an Unfavorable Decision

The number for qualifying in 2021 is $1,470 for each work credit or $5,880 for the maximum of four. Fortunately, most people qualify for SSDI during their first ten years of working. Those who don’t qualify for SSDI can apply for Supplemental Security Income.

About two-thirds of all disability claims are denied on the first application. That’s why it is important to hire a Social Security disability lawyer to help you appeal your case.

It might be best if you hire an attorney before filing your SSDI application to get help in building a strong case to get approved. If you play your cards right, you can get back payment for any months that your claim wasn’t accepted when you win an appeal. You might be able to avoid a long waiting period by submitting a correct application on the first try.

Crystal A. Davis

Crystal A. Davis was born into a family of attorneys and was raised with a strong sense of justice. During her high school years, she developed a passion for journalism and decided to combine this with her knowledge of the law.

She realized that she could make her voice heard to the masses through legal journalism. Crystal is honored to follow and report on any legal case. She shares her analysis in reader-friendly articles. However, over the years, she has become a strong advocate for VA rights and made it her mission to help veterans seek justice.