Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is an earned benefit, just like Social Security retirement benefits. People cannot claim SSDI unless they have paid into the program over many years as a worker.
If you find yourself unable to work because of an injury or illness, then SSDI benefits might help you support yourself until you recover. How do you know if you have worked long enough to obtain SSDI benefits?
You can accumulate credits every year
The Social Security Administration (SSA) expects you to have at least 40 credits to your name if you want to receive benefits. Usually, you will need to have accumulated at least 20 of these credits in the last 10 years.
The number of credits you receive depends on the amount that you earn. You can accrue up to four credits in a year, one for every $1,470. After the first $5,880, you stop accruing new credits for that year.
In other words, the longer you have had a job and the more money you earn, the greater your chance of qualifying. However, it’s important to know that younger workers who have serious medical conditions can still qualify for SSDI without a total of 40 credits.
If you are under the age of 24, you only need to have six credits earned in the last three years to qualify for SSDI. If you are between 24 and 31 years of age, the SSA expects that you have worked for at least half of the time between your 21st birthday and when you become disabled.
How do you determine if you have enough credits?
If you believe that you have made enough contributions to Social Security while working to qualify for benefits but don’t know for sure, you can check with the SSA. Their internal records will quickly help you determine if you can apply.
They will likely periodically send you letters affirming what benefits you have accrued. You can also either use their website or call the SSA to review the status of your account and whether you have made sufficient contributions. Even if you don’t have enough credits to qualify for SSDI benefits, if you are disabled you may receive SSI benefits. To qualify for SSI you must be disabled, but also must have very few assets and very little income.
Learning the basics about how Social Security works will make it easier for you to apply for SSDI benefits when you need them.