How work credits affect disability benefits

by May 6, 2014

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After Tennessee residents suffer a disability and realize that they are unable to work, one of their first concerns is how they will pay their bills and cover their daily living expenses. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration provides disability benefits for people who have worked and paid into the system but subsequently suffer a disability that results in an inability to work. However, in order to receive benefits, applicants must show that they meet the eligibility requirements. One of the first eligibility requirements relates to an applicant’s work history.

There are two important work-related inquiries when a person applies for Social Security disability. Social Security will want to know how long an applicant has worked and paid into the Social Security system in the past, and how recently that employment occurred. The SSA will then evaluate that information against the eligibility criteria in order to determine whether a person qualifies.

As a person works and pays into the Social Security system, he or she receives work credits. It is possible to earn four work credits annually. Receipt of work credits depends on a person’s annual wages or income from self-employment. Although the amount of possible credits remains the same from year to year, the amount of earnings or income needed to earn a credit can change from year to year. For example, in 2015, $1,220 of earnings or income is required for each credit. In order to obtain the maximum four credits for the year, a person must work and earn at least $4,880.

When a person applies for benefits based on disability, the SSA will look at the applicant’s total number of work credits earned. The applicant’s age at the time of applying for benefits will determine how many credits are required. In most cases, a person must have earned 40 work credits before they can receive disability benefits. In addition to this 40-credit requirement, the SSA imposes an additional requirement that at least 20 of those credits were earned in the last ten years. If a person cannot prove that he or she meets both those requirements, he or she is likely to be ineligible for benefits, unless he or she qualifies for an age-related exception.

Source: Social Security Administration, “Disability planner: How much work do you need?,” accessed Nov. 4, 2014