How many Social Security work credits do I need to get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits?

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Learn about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for disabled workers including how many Social Security work credits, called quarters of coverage, you need to become insured for SSDI benefits. Also find out how to earn the credits and how to know if you have enough credits to get benefits.

Disability Benefits for Disabled Workers

The most common disability benefit, the one most people know about, is Social Security Disability (SSD aka SSDI). You can become eligible for SSDI benefits if you become disabled more than five full-calendar months before reaching full retirement age and have enough Social Security work credits that have been earned in a specified period of time. Full retirement age is age sixty-six for individuals born between 1943 and 1954 and age sixty-six plus a varying number of months for those born 1955 to 1959 and age sixty-seven for individuals born 1960 or later.

Your SSDI monthly benefit amount is based on your lifetime earnings and the age you are when your disability begins. In 2019, SSDI benefits range from around $300 a month to $2,861 monthly.

Age at Disability Determines the Number of Work Credits You Need

You must be both fully insured and currently insured to receive Social Security Disability benefits as a disabled worker. The number of work credits required to be insured depends on your age when you become disabled. Work you have done any time in your life counts toward being fully insured. To be fully insured, you must have at least one-quarter of coverage for each year after you turn twenty-one through the year before you become disabled. For example, disability at age forty requires eighteen credits while disability at age fifty-six requires thirty-four credits. The worker must also be currently insured as described below.

Because disability benefits are intended to partially replace earnings lost due to disability, the disabled worker has to have worked and earned a certain portion of the quarters of coverage within a limited period of time before disability begins. Fulfilling this requirement is called being currently insured

Specifically, a disabled worker age thirty-one or older must have earned part of his or her quarters of coverage in the ten years immediately before becoming disabled. Stated another way, he or she must have earned twenty of forty possible quarters of coverage in the ten years before disability begins. Workers who are younger than thirty-one must have earned half of the possible quarters between when they turned age twenty-one and when they became disabled with a minimum of six work credits required. For example, a person who becomes disabled at age twenty-seven would need twelve quarters (half of the twenty-four possible in the six years between ages twenty-one and twenty-seven.) If a person becomes disabled before age twenty-one, the six-credit minimum applies.

Disability Benefits on Another Worker’s Earnings Record

For childhood disability benefits (CDB) or disabled surviving spouse’s benefits to be paid, the worker on whose earnings record benefits are being claimed must be insured and either be deceased or receiving retirement or disability benefits on his or her own earnings record. For more information about Social Security disabled survivor benefits and disabled dependent benefits, please see our article How Can I Get Disability Benefits from a Relative’s Social Security Record?

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 (SSA) to get a formal decision. When you apply, provide proof of your current year’s and prior year’s earning so that they can be considered in determining your insured status. If you are not disabled or would like a preview, you can review the earnings statement that the Social Security Administration has made available to you online at Just set up a My Social Security account and request an earnings statement (to be distinguished from a benefit statement). If you do not have access to the Internet, you can visit a Social Security office to get the statement. The earnings statement shows your total earnings by year and tells whether you were insured for disability benefits at the time you access the notice. If the statement shows you are insured, retirement and disability benefit projections will also be given. Note, however, that the statement will not include your current year’s earnings and sometimes your prior year’s work. Accordingly, you might be insured even if the statement says that you are not.

Missing Earnings

Although not common, some of your work may be missing from the statement. If so and you can prove the number of your earnings and that Social Security taxes were paid on the earnings, you can get your earnings record corrected. Accordingly, it’s always a good idea to periodically 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. This is important not only for insured status but also because your Social Security Disability and Retirement benefit amounts are based on your earnings. If you find a discrepancy, contact the Social Security Administration (SSA), preferably by visiting the closest office; or if that is not possible, call 1-800-772-1213 to arrange to submit copies of any proof you have of the missing earnings; however, if the missing wages are from the most recent three years, SSA will investigate to establish those earnings even if you do not have pay stubs or W-2’s as proof.

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