To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, an applicant must first have worked for a certain length of time in jobs covered by Social Security and have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability. In addition to meeting the Social Security’s definition of disability, an applicant must have worked long enough, and recently enough, to accumulate the necessary work credits. Work credits are based on total yearly wages or self-employment income. Up to four (4) credits can be earned each year. The amount needed to earn a work credit changes every year. In 2019, one credit is earned for each $1,360 in wages or self-employment income. Once $5,440 has been earned in a calendar year, all four credits for that year have been earned.
The number of work credits needed to qualify for disability benefits depends on the person’s age when they become disabled. In general, 40 credits are needed (10 years of work), 20 of which were earned in the 10 years prior to becoming disabled. In other words, you must have worked (and earned enough credits) in five (5) of the 10 years preceding the onset of the disability.