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Work credits the SSA says I don't have enough for SSDI?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have been working for several years. I recently got into a serious car accident. I will never walk again. I talked to the SSA about applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). They told me that I don’t have enough work credits, and I am not insured for SSDI. Can you explain what they mean and what I can do to get more credits?”


SSDI work credits overview

Unlike other type of disability programs, Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are only awarded to claimants who have worked and earned work credits. Credits are earned through payments made by the employee. For example, employees work and pay employment taxes and a percentage of these taxes are paid into the Social Security Trust Fund.

In 2017, workers who earn $1,300 will earn one work credit.  The number of credits earned each year will vary based on the income of each worker, although the maximum work credits which can be earned each year for any worker is 4 work credits.

How many work credits will I need to qualify for SSDI?

The number of work credits you will need to be insured for SSDI benefits varies by age, although many workers can qualify if they earn 20 work credits within the past 15 years.

It is possible, however, for some younger workers to be considered insured with fewer than 20 work credits (i.e. a worker who is under 24 years of age may qualify for SSDI if they have 6 work credits and they have worked half the time between the age of 21 and their date of disability).

If you have questions about your eligibility or how many work credits you need you can contact the Social Security Administration and they can tell you exactly how many credits you will need to qualify for SSDI.

What do I do if I do not have enough work credits for SSDI benefits?

Unfortunately, SSDI work credits cannot be bought or borrowed. They are earned on your own work record. This can be a real problem for workers who are seriously disabled before they have earned sufficient work credits and who are unable to return to work to make up the deficiency.

If you do not have enough work credits for SSDI benefits you will not be approved for benefits, regardless of the severity of your health condition. The only other federal disability option for you is to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

SSI is awarded to the aged, disabled, or blind who have limited income and resources and who are not able to work for at least 12 continuous months. The benefit of SSI benefits is that they do not require that you have worked or paid employment taxes to qualify.

The downside of SSI benefits, however, is that many claimants will not qualify because their income and resource level is too high. This is especially true for married claimants whose spouse works. The SSA will evaluate and consider their income when determining whether you will receive SSI benefits.

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