Work Credits

Work credits are credits that you earn throughout your work history. Each year that you earn wages and pay FICA taxes into the Social Security system, you receive work credits. These work credits are required in order to receive Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI or SSI), Social Security Retirement and Medicare benefits.

How Are Work Credits Earned?

Workers can receive a maximum of four work credits each year. The exact amount of work credits you earn each year will depend on your employment activity and the amount of your earnings. In 2021, a worker must earn $1,470 to earn one work credit. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you will generally need to have earned a total of 20 work credits, although there are age exceptions to this rule.

Work History Calendar

Work Credits By Age

The amount of work credits that you need varies by age. For anyone over the age of 42, determining the amount of work credits that you need is relatively straightforward. As you can see from the chart below, the amount of work credits you need starts at 20 and increases 2 credits for every 2 years of age.  

If you are between 31 and 42, that will require 20 work credits to qualify for disability benefits. It is also easy to tell how many work credits you will need if you are under 24 years old. If you are under 24 years old, you will need 6 work credits to qualify for disability benefits.

Work credits become a little more complicated for someone that is looking to apply for disability benefits between the ages of 24 and 30.

Age Disabled Credits Needed Years of Work
Under 24 6 1.5
24-30 8-18 2-4.5
31-42 20 5
44 22 5.5
46 24 6
48 26 6.5
50 28 7
52 30 7.5
54 32 8
56 34 8.5
58 36 9
60 38 9.5
62+ 40 10

Work Credits For Someone Between Ages 24 and 30

For people that became disabled between the age of 24 to 30 you will have need the work credits equivalent to working for half of the years between the age of 21 and the age that you became disabled. This is a little more complicated so here is an example:

If you are 27 years old, that is 6 years of time that you could have worked after turning 21. You will have needed to earn work credits for half of those years. Therefore a 27 year old will need to have 3 years of work credits to qualify for disability benefits.

Each year you can earn a maximum of 4 work credits. 4 work credits per year for 3 years means that you will need 12 work credits to qualify for disability benefits if you become disabled when you are 27 years old.

How To Prove Work History

It is relatively easy to prove your work history. With each paycheck that you receive, a small portion will be taken out for social security taxes. The SSA will have a record of your earnings and you are able to view that by creating an account on the SSA website. In addition it should be easy to demonstrate work history because the SSA will already have it on their records.

Earnings History Work Credits

What If You Do Not Have The Required Work Credits?

You will not be able to qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits if you do not have the proper work history. It is possible that you have never been able to work due to your disability. For someone who does not have the necessary work history to qualify for disability benefits, you might be able to qualify for Supplemental Security Income. SSI is a government benefit that is available for those who have a disability, limited financial resources, and don’t have the required work history for SSDI. SSI is a needs-based program, however, and you will need to meet the SSA's household income and asset restrictions before going further in the benefits application process.

The Social Security Disability SSDI program, which does require work credits, is not a needs-based program. No matter how much your household income is, you can qualify for Social Security Disability SSDI benefits if you meet the SSA's disability criteria and have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits from the Social Security Administration.

Additional Criteria For Disability Benefits

In addition to having the required work credits, you will also need the proper medical evidence to prove the existence of your disability and how it limits your ability to work. You will need to consult the SSA blue book. The blue book is a listing of all of conditions and the criteria that needs to be met in order to qualify for disability benefits. This can be found on the SSA website. If your conditions does not meet a listing in the blue book, you are able to enlist the help of a doctor to fill out a residual Functional Capacity Form. This form is essentially a doctors assessment of the limitations that a disability has put on your ability to work.

Additional Resources