How Long Do I Have To Work Before I Can Receive SSDI Benefits?

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Are you preparing to file your application for Social Security Disability benefits? If you are seeking benefits through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you will be required to satisfy legal and medical requirements, including proving that you have an adequate work record. 

This raises an important question: How long of a work history do you need to qualify for SSDI benefits? The answer depends largely on your age at the time you file for benefits. In this article, you will find a more comprehensive overview of work credit requirements and SSDI benefits.

Background: You Must Have Adequate Work History to Qualify for SSDI

To start, it is important to emphasize that work history is an important part of an SSDI claim. Not everyone is insured under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. As explained by the Social Security Administration (SSA), to qualify for disability benefits through an SSDI claim, an applicant “must have worked in jobs covered by Social Security.” If you lack a work history, you cannot claim SSDI benefits for your disability.

Note: There are other options available for disabled people with little or no work history. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is an alternative Social Security disability program that is based on disability status and financial need. In sharp contrast to SSDI, SSI does not look at an applicant’s work history or lack thereof. Even disabled children may be eligible for SSI benefits.

An Overview of SSDI Work History Requirements

Not only do you need to have a work history to qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have a sufficiently long work history based on your age. Every time you earn income through a job covered by Social Security, you are paying taxes into the system. By doing so, you earn “work credits.” You earn a maximum of 4 work credits per year under the current system. When you have enough work credits, you can qualify for SSDI benefits on technical (legal/financial) grounds. Here is what you need to know about the minimum requirements work credits for SSDI:

  • Under the Age of 24: 6 work credits (1.5 years of work).
  • Ages 24 to 30: 8 to 18 work credits (2 to 4.5 years of work).
  • Ages 31 to 42: 20 work credits (5 years of work).
  • Ages 44 to 62: 22 to 40 work credits (5.5 to 10 years of work).

If you have more than ten years of qualifying work history, then you are eligible to file an SSDI claim—regardless of your current age. Though, workers younger than 62 do not necessarily need ten years of work history to qualify. As referenced above, disabled workers under the age of 42 can qualify for SSDI benefits with just 5 years of Social Security covered employment. If you have any questions about the exact number of work credits that you need to qualify, an experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help.