How Long Do I Have to Work to Get Disability Benefits?

Submitted by Elizabeth on

To qualify for SSD benefits, you need a specific number of work credits. The number of work credits you require depends on your age when your disability commenced. Typically, the SSA requires a minimum of 40 credits—20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year when your disability started / starts. However, younger workers might qualify for disability with fewer work credits. For example, if you have worked 5 of the last 10 years you may have enough work credits to qualify for disability benefits.

What Are Work Credits?

Social Security work credits are based on your total annual wages or income earned from self-employment. You can earn up to 4 work credits every year. The amount required to accumulate one work credit changes each year. In 2024, for example, you are able to earn 1 credit for every $1,730 in wages or income earned from self-employment. So, when you have earned $6,920, you will have accumulated 4 credits for the year.

The number of work credits required to be eligible for disability benefits will depend on how old you were when you were diagnosed with your disabling medical condition. Normally, you will require a minimum of 40 credits, 20 of which should have been earned in the last ten years that ends with the year your disability starts. However, if you are a younger worker you may still qualify with not so many work credits.

How Many Work Credits Do I Need?

To qualify for disability benefits, you are required to meet a recent work test and a duration work test. The number of credits needed to meet the recent work test will depend on your age. The rules are as described below:

  • Before the age of 24 years you may be eligible if you have acquired 6 credits in the 3-year period ending when your disability begins.
  • Between the age of 24 and 31 years you might qualify if you have credit for working half of the time between the age of 21 and the date your disability began. For example, if you are diagnosed with a disability when you’re 27 years-old, you would require 3 years of work which would be 12 credits in the last 6 years between the ages of 21 and 27 years.
  • If you are 31 years or older you normally require at least 20 credits in the 10-year period just before your disability started.
  • If you are 54 years of age you will require 8 years of work.
  • If you are 56 years-old, 8.5 years of work.
  • At 58 years you will require 9 years of work.
  • At age 60 you will need to have worked for 9.5 years.

Get Help With An SSD Claim

Trying to figure out whether or not you qualify for disability benefits based on your work experience, and if you have accumulated sufficient work credits, is not an easy task. However, there is legal help available. And, if you speak with a disability lawyer with our Free Case Evaluation, you are likely to have a higher chance of qualifying and subsequently getting approved for disability benefits compared to if you work on your own.

Complete the Free Case Evaluation on this page to get connected and speak with an independent, participating disability attorney who can help you today—at zero cost to you.

Additional Resources