How Much Work Do You Need to Qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits?


You must meet Social Security’s definition of disability and have a sufficient number of work credits to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.


In this way, the SSDI program is similar to any other type of insurance, including auto, home, and life insurance. You must have paid your premiums and had coverage under the policy on the date of the accident/injury/occurrence to make a claim and receive payment. If the accident or other triggering event happens after your coverage expired, you are not entitled to compensation.


For SSDI, your earnings and taxes paid into the Social Security system serve as your premiums. When you stop working and paying money into the system, your coverage under the SSDI program eventually ends. This expiration date for coverage under SSDI is called your date last insured (DLI). You must prove that you became disabled before your date last insured to receive SSDI benefits.



This article explains how you earn Social Security work credits and how many you need to have insured status under the SSDI program based on your age. If you have any questions about your case, contact Richmond disability attorney and Virginia Beach SSD lawyer Corey Pollard for a free consultation: 804-251-1620 or 757-810-5614


How Do You Earn Social Security Work Credits?


You earn Social Security work credits by working at a job where taxes are deducted from your earnings and paid into the Social Security system. If you work under the table and do not pay taxes on your earnings, then you will not receive work credits.


You must earn a certain amount of money in a given year to receive a work credit. In 2018 you must earn at least $1,320 to receive a work credit. The amount of earnings needed for a work credit usually increases each year.


You can earn a maximum of four work credits in any given year. For example, you will receive four work credits in 2018 if you earn more than $5,280.


When Do You Have Disability Insured Status?


The number of work credits you need to qualify for SSDI benefits depends on your age when you allege you became disabled.


If you are age 31 or older, you need the following number of work credits to establish eligibility for SSDI:


  • Ages 31 through 42: 20 work credits
  • Age 44: 22 work credits
  • Age 46: 24 work credits
  • Age 48: 26 work credits
  • Age 50: 28 work credits
  • Age 52: 30 work credits
  • Age 54: 32 work credits
  • Age 56: 34 work credits
  • Age 58: 36 work credits
  • Age 60: 38 work credits
  • Age 62 or older: 40 work credits


In addition to the total number of work credits needed, you must also have earned at least 20 work credits during the 40-calendar quarter period (10 years) prior to the date you allege you became disabled. As a general rule, you need to prove that you became disabled within five years of the last date you worked full-time to receive SSDI.


If you are age 24 to 31, you need to have earned credits for half of the time between age 21 and when you allege you became disabled. For example if you become disabled at age 29, you would need credit for four years of work (16 credits) during the eight years between ages 21 and 29.


If you are under the age of 24, you need to have earned at least six credits in the three year period ending when you allege your disability began to qualify for SSDI benefits.


You can find out how many work credits you have by contacting your local SSA field office. Or, if you have internet access, register for an account on the SSA’s website.

What if I received SSDI benefits in the past but returned to work for a few years and lost them? How many work credits do I need?


If you were awarded SSDI benefits previously, then you established a period of disability. This period is not counted when determining how many work credits you need to be insured or when calculating the value of your SSDI benefit amount.


There is, however, an exception. If including the period of disability in your work credit and benefit amount calculations would be more beneficial to you, then the SSA will include them in determining your disability insured status.


What if I Waited a Long Time to File for SSDI and My Date Last Insured is in the Past?


Here is a common situation:


An injured worker gets hurt on the job and is forced to stop working. He continues to receive workers’ compensation benefits during this time.


In 2018, several years after the work injury, he finds out that he may be entitled to SSDI benefits. The injured worker files an application. He is allowed to file his application, but the SSA tells him that his date last insured is in the past – December 2017. This is because he stopped working due to the on-the-job injury and his work credits eventually ran out.


The injured worker may be entitled to SSDI benefits even though he filed an application after the date last insured. He must prove that he became disabled prior to the date last insured. In this situation he may have a chance of receiving SSDI benefits since his medical problems began prior to the date last insured and he has medical evidence to support his claim.


If, however, you did not receive medical treatment prior to your date last insured, it’s unlikely that you will get approved for benefits. Depending on your income and assets, you may, however, be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). There is no “date last insured” for SSI claims.


Have a question about SSDI work credits? Call, text, or email Corey Pollard today for a free consultation and strategy session: 804-251-1620 or 757-810-5614.