How Long Do You Have to Work to be Eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?

August 17, 2018

Understanding Social Security disability benefits eligibility is not easy.  Clients of Lowe Scott Fisher Co., LPA rely on experienced disability benefits attorneys because navigating the Social Security Administration’s complex rules and requirements can lead to undervalued, disputed, and denied applications.

One of the most confusing issues for disability applicants continues to be how long you must have worked to be eligible to receive Social Security disability.  While you will want to review the specifics of your case with your disability benefits lawyer, below are the basics regarding working time, recency, and work credits.

Preliminary Questions

Before getting to the specifics of how long an applicant must have worked, there are a couple of points that are worth mentioning.

You Must Have Worked a Covered Job

In the U.S., almost every job is covered by Social Security.  Nevertheless, some jobs still do exist (for example, railroad employment jobs) that are not covered by Social Security.  If your job is one of those not covered, you will not be eligible to receive disability benefits.

You Must be Disabled

Social Security disability is predicated on—obviously—disability.  The existence of a disability must be proven to the SSA.  No matter if you have enough work credits for eligibility, disability benefits will only be granted to those proven to be disabled.

This portion of your application can require significant effort collecting records, obtaining expert opinions, and making your case to the SSA.  For this reason, it is recommended that you consult an experienced attorney prior to applying for Social Security disability.

How Long You Must Work

If you are disabled and have worked in one or more covered jobs, you may be eligible to receive benefits provided you have enough work credits.  In broad terms, work credits are like the SSA’s “accounting system” that ensures benefits are awarded to people who have paid into the Social Security system.

Individuals in a covered position can earn up to four work credits per year.  Work credits are awarded earning a particular amount of wages in a calendar year.  The amount of wages needed to earn a work credit changes yearly.

In 2018, for example, a work credit is earned for each $1,320 in wages earned.  When an individual earns four times that amount, or $5,280, the maximum of four work credits for that year have been earned.

When applying for disability, the SSA generally requires an individual to have at least 40 work credits.  There are exceptions to this rule, though.  For example, younger employees may qualify with less than 40 credits.

For a full understanding of the rule and its exceptions, speak with your attorney about your work history.

How Recently You Must Have Worked

In addition to a total number of work credits required, applicants must also meet a recency requirement.  That is, of the 40 work credits, half must have been earned within the decade prior to applying for disability benefits.

Ohio Social Security Disability Attorneys are Available Now

If you are considering applying for disability or have recently had your application denied, we are here to help.  Call or email Lowe Scott Fisher Co., LPA now for your free initial consultation.

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