Work Credits

David Dowd

Eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is based on credits earned while working and paying into the Social Security Disability Fund.  The maximum amount of credits that can be earned by a year is four credits.  A credit is earned when $1,260 is earned.  Once $5,040 is earned in a calendar year the maximum amount of credits allowed by the Social Security Administration will have been earned. Credits are lost when you are not working and paying into the Social Security system. Every three months that you do not pay the FICA tax you lose a credit.  Typically it takes 5 years of not working or the loss of 20 credits to lose eligibility for SSDI.  You can check if you have enough work credits on the Social Security Administration website at  When creating an account you will need to prove your identity by answering a few questions.  Once you have created your account you can check your credits, your estimated disability amount and your estimated retirement amount.

Number of Credits You Need

Disabled At AgeNumber of Credits You Need
31 through 4220
62 or older40
Number of Credits You Need to Qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

The rules are as follows:

  • Before age 24–You may qualify if you have 6 credits earned in the 3-year period ending when your disability starts.
  • Age 24 to 31–You may qualify if you have credit for working half the time between age 21 and the time you become disabled. For example, if you become disabled at age 27, you would need credit for 3 years of work (12 credits) out of the past 6 years (between ages 21 and 27).
  • Age 31 or older–In general, you need to have the number of work credits shown in the chart below.

The amount paid monthly for Social Security Disability Insurance depends on how much you paid into the system.  The average payment is around $1300 a month.  If you do not qualify for SSDI you may submit an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Eligibility for an SSI application is based on a financial means test.  SSDI does not use a means test.  If you are paid into the system and you are not working or if you are working and making under $1100 a month before taxes you are eligible to submit an application for SSDI regardless of your unearned income.

Eligibility for submitting an application is the first step in applying for Social Security Disability.  Getting an approval of an application is another story.  You can read more about work credits and eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance on the SSA website by following this link