How Long Do I Have to Work to Qualify for Social Security Disability?

by Nov 20, 2017Disability Benefits

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How Long Do I Have to Work to Qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) Benefits?

To qualify for disability benefits, you have to meet two main requirements:

  • You must have a medical condition that has lasted or will last at least one year; and
  • Your condition must render you incapable of sustaining meaningful, gainful employment.

For some benefits, you also must have worked long enough and paid enough into the Social Security system through your payroll taxes. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a somewhat complex formula to determine if your work history is sufficient to collect benefits.

For help understanding these and other requirements, call the Disability Advantage Group, today at 865-566-0800.

Am I Required to Have Worked in Order to Receive Disability?

The SSA administers two different disability programs. The first is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI is a benefit program that operates as a government-run disability insurance program. The other, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), is a means-tested benefit program for the needy.

To receive SSDI, you must have worked. This program receives its funding from payroll taxes from your paycheck. If you are a W-2 employee, these automatically come out of your paycheck. If you are self-employed, these are due at tax time each year. These taxes are analogous to the premiums that private insurance companies charge to keep your policy active.

SSI, on the other hand, is available whether you have worked or not, provided that your income and assets do not exceed a certain threshold. If you have little to no work history, we can review your financial situation and determine if you are eligible for SSI.

How Many Years Must I Have Worked to Receive SSDI?

The number of years you must work to become eligible for SSDI depends on a few factors. These variables include your age, the age at which you became disabled, and the amount of money you earned each year that you did work.

The SSA maintains a formula that determines your eligibility by calculating work credits. You earn credits each year based on the amount of taxable money you earned. To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have a certain number based on your year of birth and your current age.

How Do I Earn Credits?

You earn credits by working and paying Social Security taxes. The more money you make in a given year, the more credits you earn—up to a point.

As of 2017, you can earn up to four credits per year. Each $1,300 of taxable income earns one credit. Once you have earned $5,200 for the year, you have earned the yearly maximum of four credits. No matter how much you earn beyond that amount, you cannot receive any more credits for the year.

Because the income it takes to maximize your credits for a calendar year is so low, the vast majority of full-time workers will cap out their credits each year they work.

How Many Credits Do I Need to Qualify for Benefits?

The number of credits you need to qualify for benefits depends on the age at which you become disabled.

Under Age 24

If you become disabled before age 24, you only need to have accumulated six credits during the three-year period leading up to your disability.

Between Age 24 and 31

If you become disabled between ages 24 and 31, the SSA determines your number of with this formula: (The age you became disabled – 21) x 2. This formula ensures that you earned at least $5,200 in taxable income for half the years since your 21st birthday.

For example, if you became disabled at age 27, you would calculate (27-21) x 2. In this case, you would need 12 work credits to qualify.

Age 31 or Older

If you become disabled after age 31, the SSA uses a chart to determine your required number of credits. This number can range from 20 to 40 and is generally higher the older you are. We can guide you through the application process and inform you if work credits could pose an issue at any point.

What If I Do Not Have the Credits I Need?

If you do not have the credits you need, you probably have a good chance of qualifying for SSI.

That is because if you have not earned $5,200 per year during the majority of your adult years, you probably qualify as a low-income applicant. Following a review of your finances, we can help you better understand your options.

Do You Have More Questions? Call 865-566-0800 to Schedule a Free Attorney Consultation Today.

The team at the Disability Advantage Group, is here to help you with your questions and concerns. Call 865-566-0800 to set up a free consultation.