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Understanding work credits for SSDI qualification

If you become disabled, you may be eligible for benefits through the Social Security Administration. To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance, you must have a certain number of work credits depending on your age at the time of disability. 

Review and understand the work credit requirements before you apply for SSDI. 

Earning work credits 

Individuals can earn up to four work credits each year depending on their annual income from self-employment and wages. The SSA updates the amount you need to qualify for a work credit every year. In 2020, you must earn $5,640 to get all four work credits or $1,410 for each single credit. 

Calculating work credit eligibility 

The SSA will review your work history to see if you earned enough credits before becoming disabled. The agency requires most people to have 20 work credits from the 10 years before becoming disabled and 40 work credits total to receive SSDI. 

However, different requirements apply if you became disabled and unable to work at a relatively young age. You must have: 

  • At least 20 work credits in the past 10 years if you are at least 31 years old 
  • Credit for working at least half the time since you turned 21 if you are 24 to 31 years old 
  • At least six work credits in the past three years if you are younger than 24 

The SSA has a table you can use to calculate the number of work credits you need based on your age. 

In addition to work credits, you must show that you have a qualifying disability. You must submit medical records and testimony from your doctor about how the disability prevents you from completing your former work duties. You must also show that the disabling condition will last for at least 12 months. The SSA will periodically review your eligibility for SSDI payments to determine whether you can return to work. 

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