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 2023, you must earn $1,640 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 to qualify 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.
What Are Work Credits for Social Security Disability?
To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must have enough credits to be covered by the program. You earn work credits based on your work history. You can earn up to 4 work credits per year, or one credit per quarter that you work. Your credits are earned if you work for a job that pays in Social Security taxes.
As of 2023, you must earn $1,640 to get one work credit through Social Security or Medicare. You will need to earn a specific number of credits to be covered by SSDI, so you can claim SSDI benefits. This is an important aspect of qualifying for disability benefits, just like having hard medical evidence to support your claim.
You can contact the SSA to talk with a representative who can tell you if you have enough credits to qualify for SSDI benefits.
How Many Years Do I Need to Work To Qualify For Social Security Disability?
How many years you need to work, and how many credits you need to earn, is dependent on the claimant’s age. The amount can change from one year to the next. Typically, an individual must have worked 5 of the last 10 years to have enough credits.
Here is a look at qualifying for disability benefits in 2022:
- If you become disabled between 21 and 24 years of age, you will need 6 credits to qualify for disability benefits
- If you become disabled between ages 24 and 30, you will need half the number of maximum number of work credits possible from the age of 21 to the date you first became disabled
- If you become disabled after reaching age 31, you will need at least 20 credits in the 10 years prior to becoming disabled
As of 2022, to get the maximum number of credits you can earn in a year, you must earn at least $6,560. Any credits that you earn are stored on your Social Security record even if you change jobs or even you do not earn anything for a while.
You can visit www.ssa.gov to get an estimate of how much you would receive in monthly benefits. An SSA representative can help you determine if you have earned sufficient credits to qualify for disability benefits and if you qualify for SSDI.
Even if you are self-employed, you should pay in the taxes and earn credits. By creating a mySocialSecurity account at www.ssa.gov, you can find out an estimate of benefits you will receive at retirement age and if you become disabled. This will help you if you become disabled, so you will have a general idea of how much your monthly benefits would be.
After you have determined you have enough work credits for SSDI, you will need to see if your condition meets the criteria of a Blue Book listing. You will need hard medical evidence to determine if your condition meets the specific listing criteria.
Calculating SSDI Work Credits
You qualify for Social Security benefits (SSDI) by earning Social Security credits when you work in a job and pay Social Security taxes. The Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) SSDI work credit calculator calculates your work credits on the amount you have earned and how long you have worked.
In 2023, you accumulate one credit for each $1,640 of earnings, up to a maximum of four credits per year. Every year the amount of earnings required for a credit increases slightly in line with the rise in average earnings. To get the maximum of 4 credits which is your annual entitlement you need to earn $6,560.
The credits you earn are stored on your Social Security record even if you change jobs or don’t earn anything for a period. Anyone born in 1929 or after needs 10 years of work which is 40 credits to be entitled to retirement benefits.
How many credits you require for a disability benefit depends on how old you are and when you become disabled. For example, if you become disabled before reaching 24 years you typically need 1½ years of work (6 credits) in the three years before you became disabled. If you are 31 years or older when you became disabled you will need at least 20 credits in the 10 years immediately before you became disabled.
The chart below can help calculate how many credits you need based on age.
|Age Disabled||Credits Needed||Years of Work|
Finding Out How Many Credits You Have
The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a database of your earnings record and work credits, and you can track them both through your Social Security number if you are 25 years and over. Your Social Security Statement also gives you an estimate of the benefits you'll receive at retirement age, which can play an important part in your financial planning. You can Create a mySocialSecurity Account to view your records.
The first step to creating a mySocialSecurity account is by navigating to the Create An Account page on the SSA’s website. You will be first asked to agree to the terms of service. Once you have done that you will be asked to input your personal information as directed. The information you provide must match what as is on your Social Security card. You will also need your Social Security number, a valid email address and a U.S. mailing address.
You will be asked to create a username and password which you will need to use every time you login. You will also be asked to provide another form of identification such as your cell phone number or a second email address. Each time you log on, the SSA will either text or email a new code for you to enter which proves your identity. This is called the 2 step verification process and protects you and your personal account information.
As soon as you are able to access your account you will be able to view the number of work credits you have and if the number is sufficient for applying for SSDI benefits.
Along with work credits, you will also need to meet a Blue Book. This will allow you to medically qualify for benefits.
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.