How Recently Must I have Worked to Qualify for SSDI?

Submitted by Deanna on

Disability and the loss of income it leads to inevitably affects all aspects of life. It can make money matters exceptionally tight for the entire family. Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) may relieve at least some of the financial strain. Approval for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) however depends on meeting both the medical and the technical eligibility requirements, and the technical requirements include a relatively recent work history.

Work Credits and SSDI

Most American workers pay Social Security taxes on their income from employment. These taxes accumulate as work credits and are an essential part of eligibility as an “insured individual” or “beneficiary” of Social Security.

Credits accumulate on a quarterly basis, with one credit earned if the worker pays taxes on a certain amount of income. Prior to 1978, workers earned one credit each quarter, provided they paid taxes on $50.00 of income.

How recently must I have worked to qualify?

Annually since 1978, the income threshold changes, with the SSA conducting an analysis of inflation and then making cost-of-living adjustments (COLA). The 2017 threshold is $1,300 per quarter.

Age at Disability Onset

The number of credits necessary for SSDI approval varies based on the age at disability onset. Between 20 and 40 work credits are usually necessary for approval, though younger workers may qualify with fewer available credits.

The following table helps explain the work credits one needs based on age at disability onset.


Age at Onset

Number of Credits

Before 24

6 credits


4 to 10 credits


20 credits


20 to 40 credits

62 to full retirement age

40 credits

When You Earned Your Work Credits

The SSA also requires a recent work history as part of their calculation of SSDI eligibility. The following table explains when credits must have been earned, in relation to disability onset age.


Onset Age

Credits Required

Time Earned

Before 24

6 credits

Within the 3 years before disability began

24 - 30

4 or more credits

1 credit for each year between age 21 and the age when disability began

31 - 42

20 credits

Earned within the 10 years before disability onset

43 - 61

20 to 40 credits

1 credit per year between age 21 and the onset of disability, plus at least 20 countable credits must additionally have accumulated in the 10 years just prior to disability

62 to full retirement age

40 credits

40 in total, with at least 20 earned in the 10 years just prior to disability


Getting Help with Your Disability Claim

You may need to negotiation or argue the date of your disability onset in order to meet the basic requirements for qualification. A disability attorney can make a compelling case for you by backing up your claim with appropriate supporting evidence.

Many disability claims are not approved without going through an appeals process either, especially those in which the date of disability onset must be negotiated. A lawyer that specializes in disability law is equipped with the experience and knowledge necessary to represent you at an appeal hearing An attorney’s assistance is also proven to increase the chances of approval, particularly when an appeal hearing is required.

Add new comment

Find Out If I Qualify for Benefits!