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SSDI and Part-time Work

Can part-time workers earn work credits for SSDI?

We recently had a claimant on our disability forum ask if they could qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) if they had only worked as a part-time employee.

Social Security Disability Insurance is awarded only to claimants who are disabled for at least 12 continuous months and who have worked and earned sufficient work credits to be considered insured by the Social Security Administration.

Do you have enough work credits for SSDI?

The Social Security Administration will not care if you have worked part-time or full time they will only care if you have generated enough income and paid enough employment taxes to be considered insured. The number of credits needed to be considered insured varies each year, but in 2012 claimants earn one work credit for every $1,130 of wages or self-employment income. If a claimant earns $4,520 they will have earned their four work credits for the year.

Using this criterion, most part-time workers will be able to generate enough income to accumulate four work credits each year so the question becomes, “How many work credits will I need to be considered insured by the SSA?”

According to the SSA, the number of work credits and SSDI claimant will need varies based on the age at the time the claimant becomes disabled. Older claimants generally need approximately 40 credits, and 20 of these credits must be earned in the last 10 years prior to the date of disability. Younger workers will not need as many credits to qualify. For instance, if you are 24 years of age you may qualify if you have earned six credits prior to the three year period before your date of disability.

Issues with part-time Work

There are several issues with working part-time. First, if a worker has worked full-time for many years and then starts working part-time but does not meet the criteria outline above - 20 credits must be earned in the last 10 years ending with the year the claimant becomes disabled – there is a chance they would no longer qualify for SSDI benefits (this rule does not apply to the blind).

Secondly, because the SSDI payment calculation is based partly on the income of the claimant, if the claimant is working full-time generating a high income and then starts working part-time, over time the payment amount that the worker is eligible to receive will plummet, making the SSDI payment much lower than it would have been if the worker had simply stopped working and applied immediately at the point they became disabled.

Finally, if you apply when you are working part-time the SSA is likely to assume that with a bit more effort you could be employed full-time and deny your SSDI claim. Additionally, if you are working when you apply for SSDI benefits and the SSA determines your work is substantial gainful activity your Social Security Disability Insurance application will be automatically denied.

Hiring a Disability Lawyer

Disability lawyers can help SSDI claimants determine if they have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI and evaluate their health condition to determine if they are disabled.
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