Understanding work credits for SSDI qualification, amount

 In Workers Compensation
Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, is one of two U.S. government programs administered by the Social Security Administration that offer benefits to disabled individuals in the event they are unable to work and support themselves.

However, an individual must be qualified to receive SSDI. Understanding eligibility requirements for SSDI is vital.

SSDI qualifications

SSDI is essentially a disability insurance system for working individuals. Employees pay social security taxes through their employment checks.( The tax is seen as FICA.) And, in return, they become eligible for governmental disability benefits in the event they become disabled in the future.

As individuals pay social security taxes, they earn work credits. The amount of work credits accumulated upon an individual’s disability will determine whether he or she is eligible and / or how much money he or she will receive in disability benefits.

Work credit eligibility: How to earn credits?

Every year the SSA determines how much a person has to earn in wages to earn a work credit. As of 2013, for every $1,160 a person earns, he or she received 1 work credit. A maximum of 4 work credits can be earned per year.

This applies to individuals working for another, self-employed individuals, and those in the military.

There are, however, exceptions to this general rule. Military employees, for instance, may be eligible to earn more than the allowable 4 work credits per year if certain conditions are present. Further, additional rules apply to those working for a church or religious entity, and individuals performing domestic or farm work duties.

Additionally, most federal employees, some state and local employees and railroad employees are not covered by social security and thus work credits earning do not apply to them.

Work credit eligibility: Becoming eligible

Eligibility for SSDI will depend on an individual’s age:

  • Individuals under 24 years of age who become disabled must generally earn 6 total work credits from the past 3 years of work prior to the disability.
  • Individuals ages 24-30 must have earned half of the work credits between age 21 and the time of the disability.
  • Those ages 31-42 need to have accumulated at least 20 work credits during the 10 year period prior to becoming disabled.

Individuals can visit SSA.gov for work credit requirements needed for persons who become disabled and older than 42 years of age.


It’s important, however, for employees to double check the accuracy of their Social Security Record every year to ensure the numbers are correct. The SSA records the earnings for individuals based on the W-2 sent by their employers. Verifying this amount is vital to ensuring work credit are documented in the event of a disability.

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