Getting to Know the Work Requirements for Disability Benefits

Researcher & Writer
April 02, 2016

If you’re looking to receive Social Security Disability Benefits from the federal government, there are two important work-related questions to ask—Have I worked long enough to qualify? Have I worked recent enough to qualify?

The Social Security Administration answers these questions by determining the number of Social Security credits a person has.

Credits, legally termed a Quarter of Coverage (QC), are basic units of measurement that determine whether a worker is insured under the Social Security program.

A credit is a building block or gauge of accumulated work that allows the Administration to determine if a person has put in enough time to receive the disability benefits requested.

Credits are built upon a person’s total yearly wages or self-employment income; so one credit is given when a certain amount of money is earned—in 2015, that earning amount is $1,220.

For example, one credit is given to Mike for every $1,220 in wages that Mike earns, up to four credits per year.

Social Security will only use earnings on which Social Security taxes are paid to determine credits. Investments or interest on savings do not count toward credits.

The number of credits needed to meet the requirements entirely depends on the age of the worker when he or she became disabled. The time frames are based on the following calendar quarters: First Quarter: January 1 – March 3; Second Quarter: April 1 – June 30; Third Quarter: July 1 – September 30; Fourth Quarter: October 1 – December 31.

If a worker becomes disabled...
Generally, a worker needs
In or before the quarter turning 24 6 credits or 1.5 years of work over the 3-year period before the disability started
In the quarter after turning 24 but before the quarter turning 31Credits for half of the years between the 21st birthday and the quarter becoming disabled. Example: If you became disabled at age 29, four years of work or 16 credits will be needed.
In the quarter turning 31 through 4220 credits
At 42 through 62Credits that equal your age subtracted by 12. Example: if he or she becomes disabled at age 50, 28 credits will be needed.
At or after 6240 credits

Although younger workers might qualify with fewer credits, a worker generally needs 40 credits to qualify, and twenty of those must be earned within the 10 years before becoming disabled.

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