How many work credits are needed for Social Security Disability?

Social Security insured status depends completely upon quarters of coverage, a.k.a. work credits, for both fully insured and disability insured status. To be fully insured, you need at least one quarter of coverage for each year after the year you turned 21 and the earliest of the following: the year prior to your turning sixty-two, the year before you die, or the year you became disabled.

The minimum amount of quarters of coverage needed to be fully insured is six quarters of coverage and the maximum needed is forty quarters of coverage. Each year, an individual has the potential of earning four quarters of coverage through their work activity. Social Security establishes a monetary amount each year for a quarter of coverage. The amount of quarters of coverage or work credits that an individual earns has a direct affect upon their disability insured status.

Whether or not a claimant meets the medical disability listing set out by the Social Security Administration (SSA), to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits (under title II) the applicant must have earned a sufficient number of work credits in the years leading up to their disability. The amount of income required to earn a work credit changes from year to year, but in 2010 a worker can earn one work credit for every $1,120 in taxable income--capping out at four credits per year. In order to earn credits on income, the claimant must have paid Social Security taxes on that income.
The number of work credits required to claim disability is not the same for every claimant, and it depends heavily on your age at the time of disability. What claimants must also consider is that work credits must typically be earned within a recent time frame. The following is a breakdown of the credits required for claimants at a variety of ages:

--Age 23 or younger - Claimants are required to have at least 6 work credits, all earned within the 3 year period leading up to your disability.

---Between ages 24 and 31 - To qualify, work credits earned since the age of 21 should amount to half-time employment. For instance, a worker that becomes disabled 4 working years after age 21 (age 25) will require work credits totaling the equivalent of 2 years of full-time work (8 credits).

--Over the age of 31 - Eligible claimants are required to have at least 20 work credits earned within the 10 years leading up to the disability. As the claimant's age increases, so does the number of required work credits. By age 62, claimant's will need a total of 40 work credits.

Blind claimants, or those with low vision, have different work credit requirements. Their work credits may be accumulated over the course of all of their working years, and credits may still be earned for work performed even after becoming blind. If vision impaired claimants still do not meet the work credit requirements, they may sometimes acquire benefits using the work credits of a parent or spouse.

If an individual does not have enough work credits to be insured for Social Security disability benefits? Fortunately, Social Security administers another disability program that is based upon need rather than insured status. Individuals who are not insured for Social Security disability benefits may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income Disability benefits (SSI) if they are able to meet the income and resource limits of the program.

SSI is like many other programs in that it has income and resource limits. Income might be wages, pension, disability benefits (short or long term), Workman’s Compensation, rental income, interest, etc., and a resource might be land (other than where an individual lives), inheritance, trust fund, bank account, 401K, stocks, bonds, etc).

If an individual’s income or resources do not exceed the SSI program limits they may be eligible for disability benefits through the SSI disability program even though they do not have enough work credits for Social Security disability.