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How much Social Security-covered work credits do I need to get Social Security Disability Insurance benefits?

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See how many work credits you must have to collect Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and learn how to find out if you have enough credits.


Watch the Video: “How much Social Security-covered work do I need to get Social Security Disability Insurance benefits?”

How to Earn Work Credits for Disability Insurance

As a disabled worker, to receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, which are usually called just Social Security Disability benefits, you must be disabled as defined by Social Security law and you must be insured for disability benefits under the Social Security system on the date that your disability began.

Workers become insured by earning work credits, sometimes called quarters of coverage, in jobs that are subject to Social Security payroll taxes or Social Security self-employment tax. The earnings from these jobs are called Social Security wages. A quarter of coverage, or work credit, is obtained by working and earning a certain dollar amount. As the cost of living has increased, the amount of earnings required for a one work credit has also increased. For example, in 1998, the amount was $700.00 and in 2010 it was $1,120.00. In 2014 the amount increased to $1,200.00 per quarter. You can earn up to four credits per year, and it does not matter when during the calendar year you earn the dollar amount needed for the credits. Your four credits can be earned over an entire year, or they can be attained all in a single calendar quarter, or even in a single month. For more information about increases in the cost of living and Social Security, visit our article “Will I Get Cost-of-living Increases in My Disability Benefit Check?”

Age at Disability Determines the Number of Credits You Need

The number of work credits required to be insured depends on your age when you become disabled. If you are age twenty-three or younger when you become disabled, you need to have earned six credits in the three-year period immediately prior to the onset of your disability.

If you become disabled between ages twenty-four and thirty-one, Social Security looks at how many credits you earned between age twenty-one and the date your disability began. You are insured if you have earned one credit for every two calendar quarters in that period. In other words, you must have earned half of the total possible credits. Let’s look at an example. Suppose you became disabled exactly four years after your twenty-first birthday, at age twenty-five. Then there would be sixteen calendar quarters in the period that Social Security reviews and you would need to have eight work credits.

On the other hand, if you are age thirty-two or older when you become disabled, you have to be both fully insured and currently insured on the date that your disability began. All your work that was subject to Social Security tax counts toward your being fully insured. The number of credits required to be fully insured ranges from twenty to forty, depending on your age when you become disabled. For example, disability at age forty-four requires twenty-two credits, but; disability at age fifty-six requires thirty-four credits. For you to meet the second requirement of being currently insured, twenty of your work credits have to have been earned in the ten years immediately before you became disabled.

Disability Benefits on Another Worker’s Earnings Record

To claim Disabled Adult Child benefits or Disabled Widows benefits, the worker on whose earnings record you are claiming benefits must be insured and either receiving benefits or deceased. For more information about Social Security survivor benefits and dependent benefits, see our article “Who Are the Four Groups of People Who Can Apply for Disability and Who May Meet the Requirements for Eligibility for Social Security Disability?”

How to Find Out If You Are Insured

If you are disabled, the best way to find out you if you are insured for disability benefits is to file a disability claim with the Social Security Administration to get a formal decision. But, if you would like a preview, you can review the earnings statement that the Social Security Administration has mailed out in past years. The statement tells whether you were insured for disability benefits at the time the notice was sent. However, because the statement does not include your current year’s and sometimes your prior year’s work, you might be insured, even if the statement says that you are not. Additionally, though not common, some of your other work may be missing from the statement. It’s always a good idea to compare your W-2s and self-employment tax returns with the itemization of earnings on the statement to be sure you are getting credit for all your work under the Social Security Disability Insurance program. If you find a discrepancy, contact the Social Security Administration with any proof you have of the missing earnings.

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  1. Suzanne says:

    My daughter became disable in 06 and receives social security off her step- father he passed away In 07. So I receive a social security because she became disable before 22 yr. She pays for medicare and humana for insurance. My question is I can’t get medicare because I’m not the disable person is there any kind of help i can get to get insurance I can afford? What kind of help is out there for me? I receive $1533 a mo

    Thank you,

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Suzanne,

      Check with your state or country to find out whether your income is low enough to get state-administered health insurance. If you are unable to get Medicaid or other insurance for individuals with low incomes, next fall when the next open enrollment occurs for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), I suggest that you investigate choosing insurance through that program. Your income may be low enough to qualify for a government subsidy to help pay the premiums.



  2. Wes says:

    I am curious, in the case if a person works while getting disability payments in 2014, how would the person earn more Social Security credits? Would it be possible?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Wes,

      If your work earnings while receiving disability benefits are enough higher than your earnings in the lowest earnings year used to calculate your original benefit, your future benefits could increase. For example, if your earnings in 2013 would increase your benefits, the increase would begin with the January 2014 benefit; however the Annual Earnings Recalculation Operation (AERO) that would identify an increase is not typically not run until the second half of the year. If an increase is due, it would be paid retroactively to January 2014 and sent in the last calendar quarter of 2014.



  3. Dee says:

    Hi I just recently got approved for ssdi. My 25yr old has been on ssi since he was 18. My income was not counted towards his bavk then because I told them he was an adult so they didn’t use mine. But now they are? It doesn’t make sense, the kid was told he was gonna to get a backpay check for 3,219.00. Ssi told him this knowing he was on ssi and switching over to ssdi under mine, he received 300.00 I called ssi numerous times and they said it sounds right! I don’t understand this. He’s being punished. I was told ssi is for low income people, which that hadn’t changed. I don’t get that he can work and make 1,000.00 a month on ssi without his payments being affected, but they took over 250.00 a month that was due for back pay. Also online I read when a person turns 18 parents income not used. Ssi never asked me or him how we deal with our money. I don’t help him, he helps me every single month and it’s a good chunk of change. I also read each child can get up to half each of my monthly payment. My 3 kids had to split half . My middle kid just got off due to his age. Ssi told me his money would be divided and my 2 kids wld split it evenly. So each got 197.00. Now my daughter is getting 297.00 and my 25 yr old is getting 100.00 less per month. I also read they would get more if on parents. Not in my case. I’m 47 and worked since I was 14 and the amount I get, I am very grateful that I do get it, however it’s not enough to live off. One more thing, years ago my work had a pension through the city so on my earning statements my ssi is zero I was told by ssi nothing they can do, the company did away with the pension, I got nothing cuz I was only there a couple years, but it looks like I didn’t work for 2yrs when I did. Also ssi has zero for 2012. I wasn’t working, but receiving unemployment and had taxes deducted. Would that change the amount I receive. Thank yoi

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Dee,

      Here is what I think the situation is. I believe that your son is now getting Social Security disabled adult child benefits from your earnings record. That income of his (not your income) reduces his Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The two benefits together can be as much as $741 if he is payinghis share of shelter and food costs.

      You are right that Social Security dependent benefits are split evenly among the children. If he has been eligible for disabled adult child benefits for twenty-four months, including past months, the $100 apparently “missing” from his check would be premiums for Medicare coverage. Once all the processing is done, if the has Medicaid, Medicaid will pay the Medicare premium and his check will go up.

      With regard to the calculation of your Social Security benefit, only earned income from which Social Security (FICA) taxes are withheld give you Social Security work credits. The taxes withheld from unemployment benefits (not work income) are not FICA taxes, and apparently your work under the city was not covered employment.With regard to the city pension, you probably did not work there long enough to get a pension even if they had continued the pension program.



      • Now I am disable whY I DONT GET my husband disability INSURANCE I NEVER RECEIVE ONE PENNY ALSO MY CHILDERN NEVER GOT A PENNY ALSO MY CHILDERN NEVER GOT A RED CENT now my son is giving me hell I want to be able to send him to a school to help get back on track !!!!!!! I need money for the school and transportation now that I am in able to work

        • Kay Derochie says:

          Dear LaShell,

          Dear Teresa,

          For Social Security dependents benefits to be paid, your husband has to be receiving Social Security Disability (SSDI), not Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and his Social Security family maximum must be higher than his primary benefit. Your husband can find out if the family maximum is more than his benefit by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213. If dependent benefits are payable and you have children under age eighteen (or under nineteen if still in school), you can apply for benefits for them. Dependent benefits are not paid to spouses because they are disabled; they are payable if the spouse has a child of the worker’s under age sixteen in her care or if she is age sixty-two. You can apply for Social Security disability based on your own earnings record and/or for SSI disability.


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