In order to be eligible for SSDI one must be 'insured' by the SSA, i.e., possess enough work credits along with having paid FICA taxes to qualify.
The Social Security Administration has both medical and non-medical requirements for a person to be eligible for receiving the social security disability benefits. One of the financial conditions for qualifying SSDI is having enough work credits.
For most claimants, the SSA allows you a maximum of 4 considerable work credits, based on your self- employment and/or total wages per year.
These are SSA's way of determining how much you have engaged in substantial gainful activity in the past years. For each year that you work above the SSA income limits and pay FICA taxes, you receive upto a maximum of 4 work credits that year.
The amount of work credits is adjusted according to the market inflation and the Average Indexed Monthly Earnings.
In 2021, the SSA has set one work credit amount to $1470. That is, in order to earn one work credit you need to have an income of or above $1470. The maximum number of times you can do this is 4 per year. Hence, the total amount of work credits income earnable in 2021 is $5880.
Rules for Work Credits
The minimum number of work credits required to be eligible for SSDI is 20 and the maximum is 40. These exceptions depend on the age a person becomes disabled.
Every age group has a unique number of work credits that are needed to qualify for SSDI. People under age 24 could earn SSDI with as low as 6 work credits i.e., s total of $8820 earned over the past years with no more than $5880 earned in a single year (equivalent to 4 work credits).
Similarly, for each specific age group, a person would need to have earned an amount equivalent to the particular work credits.
For example, Mary became disabled at 34 years of age. The number of work credits she would need would depend on the age bracket she falls in. In this case, Mary's work credits will be for the age bracket 31-42 i.e., 20 work credits. This means Mary needs to have earned upto $29,400 over full 5 years of work or for 5 years within the last 10 years from the date of applying for SSDI.
Another example is of Marina who lost her limbs in an accident at age 56. The specific amount of work credits she would need to have worked is unique to age 56 and that is 34 credits hours.
How to Proof You Have Enough Work Credits to Qualify for SSDI
Once you are sure you have earned the right amount of benefits according to your age, it is easy to proof your work history. The SSA has all the records of the FICA taxes you have paid on your earnings. Therefore, for each work credit earned the SSA will be able to cross check the tax amount paid over that income.
For people who do not meet the work credit requirements, you will simply not qualify to earn the SSDI income limits. However, since you have a low income limit, you will be able to qualify for the alternative Supplemental Security Income (SSI) which is a purely need-based programme contrary to SSDI, a merit based benefits programme.
Number of Credits Needed for Retirement Benefits
If you were born after 1928, the minimum number of work credits you need for retirement is 40.
Also, for people above 62 years of age, you would need a minimum number of 40 work credits to qualify for SSDI. Even if you have more work credits besides 40, you may be eligible to earn retirement benefits instead, whichever is greater in amount.
Contact a Disability Attorney to Determine Your Work Credits
If you are unsure of whether you qualify for SSDI based on your work history and age brackets or income limits, you may contact our expert disability attorneys for legal help.