As you go through your working life you pay Social Security tax, which goes towards paying for benefits when you retire or if you ever become disabled. The Social Security Administration (SSA) tracks this information in the form of work credits.
You can earn up to four credits per year, or one per quarter worked. Credits are counted if your work done is done at a job where you pay Social Security tax. The amount of earnings it takes to earn a credit changes each year. In the year 2021, you must earn $1,470 in covered earnings to get one Social Security or Medicare work credit. The SSA will then use your work history to determine your eligibility for retirement or disability benefits or your family’s eligibility for survivor benefits when you die.
If you worked before 1978, employers reported your earnings every 3 months and credits were known as quarters of coverage. After 1978 employers started reporting your earnings once a year. Now you get credits based on your total wages regardless of when you did the actual work. This means it may take all year to make enough for four credits or it may only take part of the year depending on your income.
The number of credits you need to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits depends on the age at which you became disabled:
- Disabled between 21 and 24, you will need 6 work credits toqualify for disability benefits.
- Disabled between 24 and 30, you will need half the number of maximum number of work credits possible from the age of 21 to when you became disabled.
- Disabled after the age of 31, you will need at least 20 work credits in the 10 years prior to becoming disabled.
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If you have any questions about whether you are eligible for disability benefits, be sure to contact a qualified disability attorney for a free evaluation of your case.